photos courtesy Mike DeMarco

Coming out of the end of my sophomore year at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, I was hoping for an internship for the summer, or at least a job. Unfortunately, both of the internships I had lined up fell through due to COVID-19. Luckily, however, I came across the opportunity to be the urban forestry assistant for the City of Watertown.

My job this summer was to water and prune the young trees and also water the older ash trees that had been given root treatments for emerald ash borer. My position was a hybrid, housed between the Office of Planning and Community Development (OPCD) and the Department of Public Works (DPW), which was really unique and made my summer all that more interesting. For instance, I realized how important the collaboration between the two was when we had to do an emergency tree transplanting in a construction site in the City.

The DPW was in the process of putting in a new sidewalk that was very close to an existing bur oak tree (Quercus macrocarpa). The DPW could have just taken the tree out or pretended it wasn’t there and severely damaged its root system, but instead they called the OPCD; they wanted to do a tree relocation and put the bur oak in place of a tree that had died about 15 feet away.

When I was asked to go down to the construction site I was pretty excited, as tree transplanting is something I had never heard of before—and now I would get to play a role in one! The overall process of transplanting the tree was really cool to experience. Present were five workers from the DPW; my boss, Mike DeMarco; and me.

One man was carefully operating the excavator to do as little damage as possible to the tree. The rest of us were waiting for the tree to come out to make sure it did not fall out of the excavator bucket. I kept water buckets filled that were used to hydrate the roots of the bur oak while staff excavated the hole for the tree to go into.

After the tree was in the planting hole and staff began infilling with soil, Mike and I poured more water in the hole to help settle the soil. After the tree was successfully transplanted, staff put four stakes around the tree temporarily for stability, and they put a shallow layer of mulch around the tree to help maintain moisture as much as possible during the summer heat.

I affectionately named this tree “Oakey” thus fully investing in it, since for the rest of my time as an urban forestry assistant, this tree would be the most important stop on my daily agenda. At the beginning and end of my shift, I would stop and give Oakey 20 gallons of water. I was told that trees are rarely transplanted as late as August, so it was imperative to give Oakey a lot of water to help him survive transplant shock and ultimately thrive in the new environment. My last day of work before I came back to HWS, I felt pretty guilty that Oakey would not realistically be getting the daily watering anymore, so I left him with a parting gift of 100 gallons and a little extra mulch.?