Tim Chick teaching

On Arbor Day in Lake Placid, Tim Chick teaches Girl Scouts and other groups about how to plant tree seedlings.

Tim is semi-retired and a NYSUFC Board member. He works part-time as an adjunct forestry professor at Paul Smith’s College and consulting forester and is co-chair of the Lake Placid/North Elba Tree Board.

What led you into arboriculture and urban forestry?
Tim Chick: I was raised in northern New Jersey but attended and eventually worked at a wilderness boys’ camp in the southern Adirondacks from age 10 until I finished college. I fell in love with the North Country and by age 14 I knew I’d be a forester. I went to Michigan Tech in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula for a forest management degree.

After graduation in 1963, I moved to Detroit to take care of family obligations and was fortunate to find a forestry supervisor’s job with the City of Detroit. Up until that time I didn’t even know cities had foresters! It was quite a shock to go from cruising timber in the woods to inspecting trees along busy city streets. Detroit had an enormous street and park tree population and 17 professional foresters to manage their care. I received excellent technical mentoring from the forestry staff and patient training from the work crew foremen. I was then placed in charge of tree care for a quarter of the city. Talk about having to learn quickly! While I still had fantasies of returning to woods forestry, I was hooked by the challenges of urban work.

Tim Chick logging

Tom conducting a horse logging job

What did your position entail in the 1960s?
TC: Detroit was a sprawling city of 1.3 million people at that time. There were more than 300,000 elms planted along miles of city streets, providing an elegant arching effect over the streets. When Dutch Elm Disease became prevalent, spraying with DDT was done in spring and fall to control the beetle population, surveys were done to ID infected trees in spring and summer, and sanitation removals were done during the winter months. Eventually, the control efforts were insufficient and approximately 10,000 trees died each year. Massive replacement planting began in the late 1960s.

Pruning was done using rope and saddle until the acquisition of bucket trucks in the mid-1960s. Chainsaw numbers were minimal until the mid-1960s, so the crews were very protective of them lest they have to use handsaws and axes.

How did your career progress?
TC: In 1970, I took a position as District Forester for the Michigan Dept. of Transportation’s Detroit metropolitan area. Lady Bird Johnson promoted planting of the Interstate highway system entrances to large cities during the 1970s. As a result, I was assigned as technical advisor for the landscape contracts and worked closely with the project engineers and landscape architects. After contract completion, I had the responsibility for maintaining the plantings, and it was fascinating to follow the growth and health of thousands of plants over time. I was also responsible for chemical control of weeds and brush along district roadsides.

I always loved working with young people, so after 16 years of state service I left to pursue my dream of teaching forestry by returning to grad school at Michigan State.  While there, I took a weed science course and learned about allelopathy (the chemical effect of one plant on another). That learning provided answers to unresolved questions I had about plant growth and health. I then decided to pursue allelopathy as my thesis topic and soon became deeply involved in its study.

After graduation, I started doing consulting for the Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources advising smaller communities on how to develop and implement planting plans. I also did consulting using my hazard tree and tree appraisal training. I began teaching classes and making presentations at conferences whenever the opportunity arose to make connections and gain experience in the teaching arena. I also joined the ad hoc Michigan Urban Forestry Council.

During my 40 years in Michigan, I visited the Adirondacks for two to four weeks almost every year. In 1999, after years of discussion and planning, my wife and I decided to “retire” to the Adirondacks. Since both of us love winter activities—and with the hope that I could teach at Paul Smith’s College—we made the big move.

After years of being closely connected to green industry folks in Michigan, I knew the first order of business was to attend as many forestry related meetings as possible to meet New York professionals, most of whom went to SUNY ESF. Fortunately, several of the professors at Paul Smith’s had me guest lecture in their classes which provided a wonderful connection to the college.

When the college went from being a two-year to a four-year school, they initiated a forestry concentration which emphasized right-of-way (ROW) management and they asked me to develop and teach a course in that area of study. Wow! Teaching ROW forestry in the Adirondacks was a dream come true. I’ve taught for 9 years so far and working with young people has been a thrill and very rewarding.

Paul Smith's students

Students in Tim’s Integrated Vegetated Management class.

During my time in New York, I’ve been able to establish a part-time consulting business including both urban and woodland forestry. However, now that I’m 75 years old, I’ve officially retired from doing large projects requiring lots of stamina. However, I plan to continue doing hazard tree and tree appraisal consultations. I also plan to continue speaking at conferences and writing allelopathy and ROW management articles.

Have you been able to maintain a connection to urban forestry?
TC: When I arrived in Lake Placid, I was asked to join the “Appearance Committee” which looked after beautification issues in the village and town. The committee wanted to start a tree board and asked me and another retiree, Bob Hanna, to chair the new board. Our municipal electric department obtained trees through the NY Power Authority which we used to plant the roadside entrances to the village and the town parks. We initiated an Arbor Day program with the elementary school third graders which includes seedling planting on school grounds. In 2016, we celebrated the 15th annual Arbor Day community-wide program along with Lake Placid’s 8th Tree City USA designation. The Lake Placid Tree Board has worked hard to encourage planting on private property as well as saving and protecting existing trees during ever-changing community development and construction.

Can you tell us about your NYSUFC involvement? What would you say to others thinking about joining the Board after they’ve been approached to do so?
TC: Mary Kramarchyk provided “gentle encouragement” for several years for me to join the Board. I eventually capitulated and joined the Council in 2008 after meeting such wonderful, dedicated members at ReLeaf conferences. It’s been very rewarding to work on such positive projects to encourage tree planting and care throughout the state. I think our educational activities, be it with legislators or school children, are especially important in cultivating a conservation ethic for our current and future citizens and leaders. I’m very grateful and proud to be part of the Council!

What are some things about you that might surprise others?
TC: I have five great grandchildren. Fun kids!! I ran a horse logging project five years ago. Fun job!!

What do you enjoy when not working?
TC: My wife and I love sightseeing within the Blue Line and northern Vermont, especially during fall color season. I love to hike, camp, canoe, and sail my Sunfish when I can. We enjoy spending time with our friends in the Adirondack Mountain Club.