Paul DiPietro is owner and president of Visual Landscapes, through which he specializes in design, preservation, enhancement, and professional plant health care for site management. Paul is a CNLP NYSNLA (Certified Nursery & Landscape Professional – New York State Nursery & Landscape Association). He lives in Elmira, New York with his wife, Lindy.
Paul DiPietro: My interest in urban forestry and landscape horticulture stems from a childhood appreciation for the environment and outdoors that my family and friends helped impart to me. During my childhood years I lived in both urban (Albany) and rural (Colonie) areas, so I had the best of both worlds. We had access to urban and state parks, museums, ponds, lakes, etc., and we made frequent visits to these areas to explore and have fun.
I could walk out my back door to a wooded area that was my playground and laboratory to play, explore, and be creative. There was a rich variety of plant species, animals, creeks, ponds, and meadows. Just a great environment to have fun as a kid! My friends and I never got bored with this adventure and freedom.
My high school years were when I became more aware of certain social and environmental issues in our local communities. Some of my teachers suggested I read books like Silent Spring, Moment in the Sun, Man against the Environment, Walden, and A Sand County Almanac. Reading those books, going to museums, and spending so much time outdoors led me to look into nature and the environment as areas of study.
I studied at what’s now called the SUNY College of Agriculture and Technology at Cobleskill, where I majored in the plant and soil sciences. The coursework was directed toward the conservation and management of urban recreational lands, natural history, and fish & wildlife. After Cobleskill I worked at various positions in the public and private sectors, including park ranger, nursery landscaper, union laborer, turfgrass technician, and soil conservation technician.
Due to the recessions I made a career change to the marketing and advertising world but never truly left the horticulture and plants out of the mix. I studied marketing in the evenings at Elmira College and later worked in retail nurseries and garden centers, in landscape design, and for an NBC television station. I valued all my direct, hands-on work experience. A quote that reminds me of my career path is from Mark Twain who once said, “Don’t let schooling interfere with your education.” I believe my path still boils down to plants, people, and the environmental quality of our communities.
Currently, my path has led me to work with a former customer to manage their landscape of twenty acres of gardens, trees, landscape plantings, hardscapes, natural areas … almost like a mini urban park. My favorite part is the freedom to create and build an environment that is sustainable and aesthetically pleasing while being healthy and safe for the seniors living in community there now and in the future.
I was introduced to the NYSUFC by a brochure I saw at a meeting years ago put on by NY ReLeaf. I later attended my first ReLeaf conference in Saratoga Springs, NY (2007) and joined the Council. I have made many new friends and contacts and have built my network of urban forestry professionals through my involvement with the Council, and I enjoy seeing everyone at our annual conferences to share and learn from each other.
I would say the biggest strength of the NYSUFC is the network and partnerships of the public and private sectors involved in urban forestry, including the colleges and universities in New York that welcome us so we can see what’s new and meet the students and stewards of tomorrow. We share our ideas, stories, and resources to continue to grow and develop relationships toward a common goal of planting and caring for our urban and community forests.
The biggest challenges facing the Council are to build membership and partnerships, to brand the Council to the general public in our towns, schools, cities, industry trades, and communities, and then to put those partnerships and branding to use.
What is urban forestry to me? Urban forestry to me is the interaction on a daily basis of people with trees, other people, and our communities in an environmentally sustainable, healthy manner to enrich our lives and grow in being more human.
My free time interest recently has to become more fit and participate in OCR (Off Course Racing) like the Spartan Races. I also enjoy kayaking, tennis, fly fishing (still learning), hockey, snowshoeing, traveling, and the outdoors in general. I always enjoy museums and visiting wineries with friends in the Finger Lakes region. I have a wonderful supportive friend for over 40 years in my lovely wife Lindy who is a retired educational professional but very active in our community. I have two grown children, a crazy cat, and a smart turtle.
As my brother the doctor would say, “That’s the scoop.” I look forward to seeing you at the next ReLeaf conference.