This is an article, adapted for TAKING ROOT, that I originally wrote for Upstate Gardeners’ Journal in 2013. It’s about the amazing metro-Buffalo-based community tree advocate Ed Dore and how a portion of the upstate community tree planting movement has evolved in the last 15 years. –Michelle Sutton, TR Editor
Ed Dore and a Glimpse into Upstate’s Community Tree Planting Movement
When you read here about ambitious and successful volunteer tree planting collaborations in upstate New York, Ed Dore wants you to say not, “Isn’t that great they do that?” but rather, “Hey, let’s do that here!”
Dore owns Dore Landscape Associates in Pendleton, founded in 1982, about half an hour east of Buffalo and one mile east of the Erie Canal. Though he eschews recognition, Ed Dore is highly regarded for his talent in helping volunteer communities of all kinds partner with one another to plant trees in public spaces.
He and his industry colleagues have been involved in community tree planting efforts in earnest since 1999, but Dore tracks the movement back to 1974 when the Western NY State Nursery and Landscape Association (WNYSNLA) planted its first Arbor Day tree. The inaugural tree was planted on Goat Island in the Niagara River, near Niagara Falls.
Envisioning at the Millenium
In 1999 the NYS Nursery and Landscape Association (NYSNLA) executive committee—then made up of Dore, Greg Frank of Rochester, Dave Ryan of Syracuse, and Vinnie Drzewucki of Long Island—decided to create a program to plant 2000 trees across the state. They wanted to both commemorate the new millennium and to more generally promote the idea of using trees as an iconic symbol for honoring events. With funding for the trees coming from Niagara Mohawk and HSBC, and labor offered pro bono by its members, the NYSNLA launched the 2000Tree Program.
Dore says, “In the first week of January, 2000, NYSNLA members planted 100 trees along the waterways of NYS, starting with trees planted on Goat Island, and each day we moved east to the Hudson River, and then south along the Hudson. It worked out nicely that we embarked on our one-year goal by setting out from Goat Island, where 26 years earlier we’d planted our first Arbor Day tree.”
Later in 2000, the WNYSNLA found funds to match earmarks from the 2000Tree Program to make it possible to plant 900 B&B (balled-and-burlapped) trees in Buffalo’s Delaware Park in partnership with the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy.
At the same time, tractor trailer loads of different species of trees for the 2000Tree Program were delivered to Dore’s business. His sons Andrew, Matthew, and Danny would unload the trees, sort them to fulfill requests from various NYSNLA Regions, reload the trees on trailers, and send them across the state. NYSNLA members organized volunteers or installed the trees themselves and in some cases, the Dore boys would travel to various locations to assist in the effort.
“The idea was to use these trees as a way to get involved in community groups already working to beauty their neighborhoods,” Dore says. “NYSNLA got funding to continue into 2001, and with volunteers, we planted about 1800 trees by September of 2001.” The project went on hiatus after the events of September 11, 2001.
A personal tragedy befell the Dore family as well. In fall of 2001, Dore’s son Andrew, age 20, was hit by a car and did not survive. Barb and Ed Dore founded the Andrew Dore Fund (an endowment fund within the NYS Nurserymen’s Foundation), seeding it with $20,000, to help fund the kinds of tree planting projects that Andrew had so earnestly helped with. In late 2001, within weeks of Andrew’s passing, the NYSNLA planted over 100 trees along the North Amherst Bike Path, where the Dore family likes to run.
Starting in 2002, more of the eight Regions of the NYSNLA got involved in community tree planting, often with trees funded by Andrew’s Fund. Dore says, “These were planted by community volunteers and block clubs—with training and supervision provided by NYSNLA members—looking to make their neighborhood a better place using their sweat equity.”
Dale Tuttle is current president of the NYSNLA and manages the Cicero branch of Northern Nurseries. He says, “In NYSNLA Region IV-Syracuse, we reached out to our members, offering three to five trees to each member so long as they would be planted in a public area, like a park or school. We’ve averaged 50-60 trees a year going to 15-20 different areas and members.” Since 2002, members of NYSNLA Region 4-Syracuse have planted over 500 trees, and Rochester-area members, over 300.
Meantime, members of the WNYSNLA jumped headlong into partnership with a number of community gardening groups.
Collaborations in the West
In 2003-4, the WNYSNLA used funds to help with restoration of the interior portion of the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Garden, a public institution. All the work was done by volunteers, and Ed’s oldest son Matthew, who was teaching an evening horticulture course at McKinley High School, brought over students to assist.
In 2005, the WNYSNLA successfully applied for a NYS DEC Community Tree Grant and, with monies from Andrew’s Fund, planted about 117 trees in Buffalo’s South Park. For many Buffalonians, South Park is regarded as the jewel in the crown of the City’s Olmsted-designed park system.
On October 12, 2006, a surprise snow storm damaged an estimated 90% of Buffalo’s trees. A visionary man named Paul Mauer, sitting at home in the dark (as all power was out in the area), hatched a plan strikingly similar to the 2000Tree Program to find funding from outside sources while energizing a volunteer base to fulfill a community need.
Mauer contacted two men long active in the tree community, Jim Pavel and David Colligan, and ReTreeWNY was born. WNYSNLA has played a supporting role since ReTreeWNY’s inception, helping plant over 35,000 trees in Western New York—many in Buffalo.
In 2009, Andrew’s Fund helped create, in conjunction with many partners, a community tree farm on 14th Street on Buffalo’s west side. Dore says, “We lined out 300 trees in containers and grew them on, and when they got to 1.5” caliper, they were planted in Buffalo. After five years this garden was converted to a community vegetable garden. This would supply more immediate ‘fruits’ to the community, but in the meantime, the children of the area got to see how trees are grown in a nursery situation.”
This project was undertaken in conjunction with Buffalo nonprofit Grassroots Gardens, a group that leases vacant lots from the city for $1 for 10 years; they leased three lots for the tree farm. A second nonprofit collaborator was PUSH (People for United Sustainable Housing), who supplied the part-time crew that oversaw and worked with the volunteers at the community tree farm. Another group, the Buffalo Green Fund, assisted in funding the original tree crop of trees and continues to buy stock from a local tree farm for planting each year on public property on Buffalo.
A Tale of Two Technologies
Since the millennial founding of the 2000Tree Program, community tree planting efforts have been assisted by the development of the bare root method out of Cornell’s Urban Horticulture Institute, headed by Nina Bassuk. The simple technique involves dipping freshly harvested bare root tree roots into a vat of hydrogel and water; the hydrogel slurry coats the tree roots and prevents desiccation while the trees are stored, transported, and planted. (Hydrogel is a polymer that holds several hundred times its weight in water).
Dore says that the bare method has allowed volunteer groups in Buffalo to plant many more trees on city streets at a fraction of the cost of B&B trees. “Bare root trees are much more volunteer friendly, too,” he says, “because without all that soil, they are lighter to carry around.” The trees for Dore and colleagues come from Schichtel’s Nursery in Orchard Park, south-east of Buffalo; Schichtel’s has made itself known both for the quality of its bare root trees and for the hydrogel-dipping services they can provide or set up for volunteers.
Nina Bassuk has advised the NYSNLA and community groups internationally on the bare root technique. “I’m so pleased that so many communities have picked up on this method,” she says. “We started doing it in Ithaca in the ‘90s when budget cuts forced us to move away from B&B trees, which are more expensive to purchase, ship, and plant. With bare root, volunteer groups can dip, ship, and plant the trees themselves with just shovels—no costly machinery.”
The most recent large-scale planting in Buffalo took place in April, when 1300 bare root trees were dipped and bagged by volunteers in the City’s old central terminal railroad station. “By having volunteers do the dipping (which normally costs $3/tree),” Dore says, “That freed up almost $4,000 to buy more bare root trees.” Volunteer groups then came from all over the City to the centrally located railroad station to pick up their trees for planting.
Bare root is a boon to community forestry, but balled and burlapped (B&B) still has its place—for instance, when planting needs to take place in windows of time that aren’t conducive to bare root planting. (The harvesting and planting of bare root trees should be done in fall or spring during the dormant season for your area. For more info on the technique, please see www.hort.cornell.edu/uhi/outreach/pdfs/bareroot.pdf).
B&B is a better bet for larger caliper trees of most species. For example, last March, when, with monies from Andrew’s Fund, as part of the National Garden Festival, the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy, ReTreeWNY, Buffalo Green Fund, WNY Nurseryman’s Foundation, and McKinley Parkway Homeowners decided to plant 112 trees of 3” caliper in McKinley Circle in South Buffalo, B&B was the appropriate technology.
Dubbed “Extreme Makeover: Traffic Circle Edition” by the organizers, the project brought four varieties of street trees—Washington hawthorns (Crataegus phaenopyrum), seedless horsechestnuts (Aesculus hippocastanum), bur oaks (Quercus macrocarpa), and Princeton elms (Ulmus ‘Princeton’)—to McKinley Circle. (Concentric rings of four varieties had been Olmsted’s vision for the site.) Dore Landscape Associates donated equipment, manpower, and expertise.
Speaking of Dore Landscape Associates, Ed Dore wants to recognize his daughter, Colleen, 30, for her leadership of his family’s company. “She is VP of our corporation, she runs the company, and she makes sure all this community giving works while we survive in the business world,” he says.
Losses and Hope
Sadly, in April of 2013, right as the big spring bare root planting was taking place in Buffalo, Dore’s wife Barb passed away after battling a disease called myotonic dystrophy. Dore himself gave the eulogy for Barb, to whom he’d been married 40 years. The Dores are private about these losses, preferring to channel grief into furthering community service work.
Ed Dore has many more stories to tell about community tree planting projects. “At some point, though,” he says, “I really just hope that this piece activates in you, the reader, the spark of an idea you can put into action, through horticulture or any other field that weaves a thread of service in your community’s tapestry. Lack of money should not inhibit you—seek partners for your idea, collaborate with existing groups—they are out there.”