ReTree the District is Taking Root in Buffalo’s University District

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Hundreds of students from the University at Buffalo have participated in ReTree the District. For many, this is an opportunity to meet neighbors and learn more about the community surrounding campus. Photos by Darren Cotton

by Darren Cotton, Board Vice President, University Heights Collaborative

What started as a group of neighbors in Buffalo sitting around a table talking has transformed into a multi-faceted, multi-phased project that is uniting their corner of the city. ReTree the District is a collaborative project of community partners in Buffalo’s University District that is working to plant 1,000 exclusively bare root trees across the northeast corner of the city. The project utilizes the Cornell Urban Horticulture Institute bare root method and the trees come from Schichtel’s Nursery. ReTree250

Started in early 2014, ReTree the District has made great strides toward its goal of planting 1,000 trees. Between fall 2014 and fall 2015, 585 trees were planted on residential streets throughout the district’s neighborhoods. The project has already brought over 1,000 volunteers to the community who invested $85,000 in volunteer hours, it has raised over $20,000 to purchase trees and tools, and it has supported the development of many new partnerships and collaborations within the community. Planting trees has become a great way for neighbors to meet one another and contribute positively to their community. Block clubs have gotten organized, student renters have worked alongside longtime homeowners, and dozens of different organizations are working together toward the same vision.

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Saratoga Tree Nursery Kicks Off Annual Low-Cost Tree and Shrub Seedling Sale and School Seedling Program

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Spruce seedlings in the Saratoga Tree Nursery

Landowners Can Take Advantage of Low-Cost Native Plants; Available to Schools for Free

More than 45 species of trees and shrubs from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) Saratoga Tree Nursery are now available to public and private landowners and schools, DEC Acting Commissioner Basil Seggos announced today.

“The seedlings from our Saratoga Tree Nursery help landowners create habitat and improve air and water quality in their backyard and schoolyard” Acting Commissioner Seggos said. “In addition, many types of trees and shrubs provide important food sources for bees, butterflies and other pollinating insects which have declined over recent years. I encourage all New Yorkers to take advantage of this great resource, and to work with our foresters and experts at the nursery to maximize the conservation benefits of your plantings.”

Low Cost Options for Public and Private Landowners

The program provides low-cost, native planting materials from New York sources to encourage landowners to enhance the state’s environment for future generations. The Saratoga Tree Nursery also offers a few non-native species which can enhance wildlife plantings and assist with stream bank stabilization. For instance, toringo crabapple provides a winter food source for wild turkey, grouse and deer while streamco willow is used in many stabilization projects.

Species attractive to pollinators and offered by the nursery include maples, sycamore, buckeye, willows, bristly locust, roses, viburnum (highbush cranberry, arrowwood, nannyberry), dogwood, crabapple, sand cherry, buttonbush, wild grape, and, black cherry.

The Saratoga Tree Nursery sells primarily bare-root stock for direct plantings, but a few species are available as containerized stock. Landowners can receive planting advice from their nearest DEC forestry office or private forestry consultant. The 2016 Tree and Shrub brochure (PDF) (170 KB) can be found on the DEC’s website or by calling the Saratoga Tree Nursery at(518) 581-1439. Some species sell out quickly.

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Nyack’s Tree Inventory Propels Nursery and Planting Program

Nyack's Tree Inventory began in the Village's Memorial Park
Nyack’s Tree Inventory began in the Village’s Memorial Park

Here, Nyack Tree Committee Chair Marcy Denker discusses the tree inventory recently completed in her Village. You can see the full tree inventory report here, and the key findings from the inventory can be seen after Marcy’s narrative.   

New York State Urban Forestry Program Coordinator Mary Kramarchyk says, “Nyack uses the principles of good urban forestry management to gain the best outcomes for their projects. Like Nyack, other New York communities can use the resources around them, like ReLeaf and the NYSUFC, to find tools to benefit their community programs.”

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Foresters Allison Huggan and Carl Koehler (yellow jackets) of Davey Resource Group with Nyack Village Trustee Doug Foster, Mayor Jen White (center), and Tree Committee Chair Marcy Denker.

Marcy Denker:

When the Village of Nyack organized a Green Infrastructure Roundtable to address stormwater problems three years ago, tree planting and stewardship emerged as priority actions. The Village took the steps to become a Tree City USA the following year and received a NYSDEC Cost-Share Grant for a tree inventory. Completed in 2015 by Davey Resource Group (DRG), the inventory identified over 500 locations for tree planting on public land. That’s a lot of sites for a village of one-and-a-half square miles!

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New Guide to CU Structural Soil®

Cover of CU Soil guideRecently, the Cornell Urban Horticulture Institute, headed by Nina Bassuk, published a 57-page Comprehensive Guide to CU-Structural Soil.

This is THE publication to share with your municipality’s engineers and leadership, to show the why and how of CU-Structural Soil.

CU-Structural Soil®, also known as CU-Soil®, is a two-part system comprised of a rigid stone “lattice” that meets engineering requirements for a load-bearing paving base, and a quantity of uncompacted soil that supports tree root growth.

The first section of the Guide discusses the role of soil volume and how to calculate how much soil volume a tree needs.  No matter how well matched your tree species is to its site, limited soil volume is something few trees can abide, much less thrive in.

CU schematic
CU-Soil conceptual diagram

The Guide goes on to give the case for CU-Structural Soil  in particular, and answers FAQs like “How much CU-Soil will I need?”, “How do you plant trees in CU-Soil?”, “Can it be retrofitted for use under existing trees?”, and “How is irrigation and drainage handled?” It also explains how to obtain CU-Soil that meets quality control specifications. (This, by the way, is why CU-Soil is licensed—to ensure quality control. Otherwise, anyone could mix up rocks and soil and claim to be selling “CU-Soil.”)

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ReTree Schenectady: Cost-Share Grants Story & Advice

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ReTree Schenectady (ReTree) is a non-profit organization formed in 1991 that is dedicated to the planting, care, and conservation of current and future generations of trees in the City of Schenectady. Their goals are achieved by fostering community involvement through education and collaboration with local organizations and businesses.

ReTree has applied for and received many rounds of NYS DEC Cost-Share grants. Here, ReTree President Dr. Betsy Henry shares some of her experiences and has some advice for new applicants. First and most basic, applicants should make sure to address all the areas requested in the grant application. Then she has some advice about good planning and collaboration for projects.

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Urban Forestry Roundtable Repository

Balling up a mature bur oak to be moved. Photo by Greg Hove
Balling up a mature bur oak in preparation for relocation. Photo by Greg Hove

A repository of more than 30 roundtables from CITY TREES magazine 2005-2017 is freely available on the home page of the Society of Municipal Arborists (SMA) website, www.urban-forestry.com.

The roundtable format was a suggestion from Dr. Nina Bassuk that City Trees took and ran with. Each roundtable contains advice and anecdotes on a theme from 8 to 10 professionals. The information will be of interest to anyone involved in the urban and community forestry (UCF) world!

The topics are: Bees, Bioswales, Building Bridges Between LAs and MAs, Building Bridges with City Depts, Part I and II, Cemeteries, Climate Change, Consulting, Contract Growing Partnerships, Drought, EAB, Fall Planting, Flood Damage, Gas Lines and Trees, Historic Trees, Invasives, Large Tree Relocation, Medians, Memorial Trees, Palms in the Urban Forest, Pruning Cycles, Pyrus Problems, Sewer Lines, Slopes, Social Networking, Teaching, Tree Boards, Tree Lights, Urban Forestry’s Location in City Departments, Urban Fruit Trees, Urban Wood, Zoos. 

Sample entries from roundtables follow. Please go to www.urban-forestry.com to take advantage of this resource and learn more about the SMA, which welcomes members from all spheres of the UCF world (paid or volunteer).

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Northeast PA’s Bare Root Tree Community Buy: 10,000 and Counting

Bareroot planting

Above: Retired MD Dr. Henry Street of the Laporte PA Borough Shade Tree Commission illustrates how easy it is for volunteers to handle bare root trees, which typically contain 200% more roots (especially fine absorptive roots) than balled and burlapped trees of similar caliper.

Cornell Urban Horticulture Institute Director Nina Bassuk has been collecting data and observations from communities in New York and beyond about their bare root planting programs. (If you have observations from your town or city’s bare root program, please email them to nlb2@cornell.edu).

Bassuk suggested we highlight the efforts of Penn State Cooperative Extension Urban Forester Vincent Cotrone, who coordinates a community tree buying program that has resulted in more than 10,000 bare root trees being planted in Northeast PA. “Having a coordinator is key,” Bassuk says. “My hope is that we can create more community buying programs in New York.” (Learn about Onondaga County’s Bare Root Community-Tree Buy here, in a previous post about bare root).

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Kristy King and NYC Forest Restoration: Dreaming Big for the City’s Natural Areas

Kristy King on a trip to India.
Kristy King on a trip to India.

Kristy King is the Director of Forest Restoration for the Natural Resources Group of NYC Parks. Here we get to know Kristy and the work that her department does to bring degraded land back to life in the surprisingly diverse range of natural areas of New York City.

Can you tell us about your childhood influences that foreshadowed getting interested in forest restoration work? 
Kristy King: I’ve always been interested in biology and used to explore the woods and streams behind my house in Columbia, SC. I can’t say that I was on track to work in forest restoration from a young age, but I’ve always been fascinated by the outdoors and felt that nature is an important part of the human experience. When studying biology in high school, ecology fascinated me the most due to the profound interconnectedness of life and the environment. I was so blown away by the complexity of it all and knew I wanted to dig deeper.

Can you tell us about your educational and career trajectory?
King: I studied Biology (focus on botany and ecology) at the College of Charleston in South Carolina and graduated in 2003. At that point I felt unsure about my trajectory and worked for some months as a florist and a field assistant performing vegetation surveys in the cypress swamps of Francis Marion National Forest, north of Charleston.

I then scored an entry level job with NOAA/National Ocean Service as a marine biologist (basically a lab technician) studying the ecological impacts of harmful algal blooms. I did that for three years and while it was very cool, I didn’t feel personally invested in the field and didn’t want to work as a laboratory scientist for my entire career.

I started independently exploring subfields in ecology and was quite taken by urban ecology both because I personally wanted to live in a big city and because I felt excited about the potential impacts of performing science and management where so many people live!

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Participate in the Reintroduction of the American Chestnut … by Simply Planting a Few Nuts

By Allen Nichols, President of The American Chestnut Foundation, New York Chapter

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Above: Allen Nichols doing a chestnut planting demonstration with home schoolers in Plattsburgh, NY.

I became aware of the American chestnut (Castanea dentata) when my father pointed out the remains of dead trees to me when I was just a boy. I was aware of the resprouts that keep coming up and then dying back from the blight. Then, when I was a teenager I witnessed the death of all the great American elms on our farm, which gave me a vision of what must have happened when the Chestnut blight killed all the chestnuts 50+ years earlier. I think that the devastation to ash trees today by Emerald Ash Borer and ash yellows and decline is giving the next generation a glimpse of what has happened in the past. 

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SMA’s 2016 Urban Tree of the Year: Musashino Zelkova

Musashino Columnar Zelkova habit
The narrow upright habit of ‘Musashino’ zelkova lends itself to many uses. Photo Courtesy J. Frank Schmidt & Son Co.

by Michelle Sutton, Taking Root Editor

The Society of Municipal Arborists (SMA) has voted Zelkova serrata ‘Musashino’ the 2016 Urban Tree of the Year. The yearly selection must be adaptable to a variety of harsh urban growing conditions and have strong ornamental traits. It is often a species or cultivar considered underutilized by urban foresters. The SMA Urban Tree of the Year program has been running for 20 years, and recent honorees include yellowwood (2015), ‘Vanessa’ parrotia (2014), and live oak (2013). You can see the full list of past winners on the SMA website, www.urban-forestry.com.

Zelkovas are native to Japan, Korea, and Taiwan. J. Frank Schmidt & Son Co. introduced Zelkova serrata ‘Musashino’ to the North American nursery trade in 2000. Named after a city in Tokyo (which itself is a city but also a prefecture containing multiple other cities), ‘Musashino’ has been a successful and popular street tree for many more years in Japan, proving itself useful as a narrow, upright form of zelkova. It has the genetic potential to reach 45 feet (14 m) in height and 15 feet (4.6 m) in width at maturity. It is hardy in USDA Zones 5 to 9.

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