Getting to Know Council VP & Syracuse City Arborist Steve Harris

Steve Harris at the Syracuse Parks Department’s annual community tree planting event involving approximately 100 trees and 100 volunteers. The event is organized in partnership with local partners Cornell Cooperative Extension-Onondaga County and Onondaga Earth Corps. “It is always the highlight of the year,” Steve says. Photo Courtesy Onondaga Earth Corps

Steve Harris has been Syracuse City Arborist since 2010. He has served several terms on the Council Board and is now its Vice President. Steve is also active with the Society of Municipal Arborists, excelling in conference program planning.    

Can you tell us about your educational trajectory?
Steve Harris: When I was 9 or 10, my Dad gave me an atlas of the United States for my birthday. I studied it often and knew all the states and capitols before that was taught in school, which might be the reason I studied Urban Geography at Ohio State. In 1990, at the end of my senior year of college, one of my friends told me they’d enrolled in the Peace Corps. The idea of getting that kind of experience resonated with me, so I applied and was sent to The Gambia in West Africa to be a forest extension agent.

Upon my return to the States, I worked in an unrelated field for a couple of years before realizing that forestry was the career path for me. I attended Paul Smith’s College to get an Associate’s Degree in Pre-Professional Forestry then to SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry to get a Master’s Degree in Forestry. In both cases, my focus was forest management.

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Getting to Know Onondaga Earth Corps Director Greg Michel

Greg Michel (at left) went with a team of Onondaga Earth Corps staff and advanced crew members–Nick, Amanda, Taveon, and Tyrell–to the 2018 Partners in Urban Forestry Conference in Irvine, California.

Over the years, Onondaga Earth Corps (OEC) and the Council have partnered in various fruitful ways. OEC Director Greg Michel (pron. “Michael”) recently joined the Council Board; we wanted to get to know him and OEC better. A Council Blog post about the work of OEC can be seen here.

Greg Michel was born in Boston, then raised in Houston for a decade before his family moved to upstate NY when he was 12. He spent a gap year between high school and college in Japan as a Rotary Exchange Student, establishing an abiding interest in Japanese culture. After high school he attended Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio where he majored in International Studies with a regional focus on Japan and wrote his undergraduate thesis on “The Role of Japanese Identity in Cross-Cultural Communication.”

Michel then went to Tokyo Gakugei University to study International and Environmental Education at the graduate level, writing his thesis on “Impact of Global Connections on Place-Based Environmental Education,” and earning his master’s degree in 2001. 

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Another Successful Save the Rain Tree Planting Event

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Volunteers gathering for the fall, 2016 Save the Rain tree planting event. Photos Courtesy Save the Rain

Save the Rain is Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney’s comprehensive program to improve the environment and clean Onondaga Lake by reducing the stormwater runoff that enters the sewer system. There is a combined sewer system in Syracuse, and during heavy rainfalls the system overflows into the tributaries of Onondaga Lake. Save the Rain utilizes innovative green and gray infrastructure to capture stormwater, preventing combined sewer overflows (CSOs) and improving water quality. The Save the Rain Tree Planting Program has planted over 6,300 trees that, among other ecological services, can soak up stormwater runoff.

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Getting to Know Onondaga Earth Corps

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2016 Onondaga Earth Corps crew members get to know each other at orientation. Photos & videos Courtesy OEC

You may have noticed that every summer the ReLeaf conference gets an infusion of youthful energy when members of the Onondaga Earth Corps attend. Here, we learn more about this Syracuse-based organization from OEC Program Coordinator and SUNY ESF grad Adrienne Canino. “OEC is a community organization dedicated to creating jobs for youth here in Syracuse and bringing people together to understand the value of trees in our city,” she says.

Here’s a terrific video about the range of activities OEC is involved with:

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