April 15, 2007


Do  you  live  in  a  Tree City USA?

By Lou Sebesta

Karl Rabe/Poughkeepsie Journal
Trees on College Hill in the
City of Poughkeepsie.

Is your community a Tree City USA? Chances are, you may know some in your area. At 28 years, the City of Poughkeepsie is the longest continuously recognized Tree City in New York state. Our mid to lower Hudson Valley region holds the richest concentration - more than 40 recognized communities, and more than 40 percent of the statewide total.

Tree City USA is a program of The National Arbor Day Foundation in cooperation with the USDA Forest Service and the association of state foresters. Locally, the New York State Department of Environmental Conversation's urban foresters help administer the program, which recognizes communities for providing a basic level of human and financial resources to manage their community forests.

The standards are:

  • An advisory board and/or city department responsible for public tree care must be designated. Typically, such boards are composed of concerned citizen volunteers, are facilitated by community agency staff and meet once a month or so.
  • A tree care and protection ordinance is drafted and incorporated into the community's code. Elements usually include those responsible for public tree care and maintenance, guidelines for review of trees to be conserved, removed or replaced, and preferred versus undesirable species for planting. Some review of development plans involving trees on private property may also be included.
  • At least $2 per capita must be allocated to the public tree program each year. All expenses for tree care and management are eligible, including surveys and inventories, pruning, removal, replacement, watering, fertilizing, mulching, equipment, staff/volunteer services and training, leaf/brush pickup, and composting/recycling. Annual work plans sum up accomplishments.
  • Arbor Day is celebrated, often with the planting of a tree at a school, park or other public place by officials, students and interested citizens. DEC foresters may be invited to distribute recognition awards.

These qualifications are the formal requirements for becoming a Tree City USA. They lay the foundation for more effective and efficient tree care and management. But the essence and spirit of what it means to be a green community lies with the dedicated core of community leaders, staff and citizens who strive to maintain the natural environment which is so essential to ensuring a high quality of life.

It may be surprising to learn there is no legal protection for state champion trees, whether they stand on public or private property. NYSDEC maintains records of trees noted as being the largest of their species.

Local ordinances helpful

But if communities want to guarantee real protections for their special trees and natural landscapes, they may at their discretion consider writing their own tree ordinance. Your local DEC urban forester can offer free, impartial consultations, guidelines and samples, but management decisions and ordinance details are up to the local community.

Being green enhances a community's public image and pride. It is a credit to all those staff, managers and volunteers who have cared for the public trees and landscaping, as well as the base of citizen support for the tree programs as a whole. Private property owners are also an essential component of what it takes to provide the natural and sustaining environment that helps to make community life a pleasure rather than an annoyance.

The USDA Forest Service is beginning to quantify the free ecosystem services benefits provided by community trees in its urban forest effects model, as developed at its office at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry at Syracuse. It is based on a community tree inventory, and can typically document millions of dollars of environmental benefits per year.

These include cleaner air through oxygen generation/carbon dioxide uptake, reduction of particulates, volatile organics and other compounds, cleaner water/better recharge to aquifers, reduction of the urban heat island effect and energy costs, noise reduction, etc. One acre of trees produces enough oxygen for 18 people every day, and over a year's time absorb the carbon dioxide produced by driving your car 26,000 miles. Considering all these economic benefits of having trees in our neighborhoods, it makes sense to invest in their care and management.

In addition, other more subjective benefits are enhanced, such as wildlife habitat, property values, and aesthetics. They have proven physical and psychological health benefits. Put simply, trees are beautiful in so many ways.

Lou Sebesta is an urban forester for the Department of Environmental Conservation.

Arbor Day, Earth Day events planned in the valley

What: Arbor Day ceremony celebrating Beacon as a Tree City USA with the Tioranda Garden Club and community garden planting with Brownie Scouts from James V. Forrestal School.
When: Arbor Day ceremony 5 p.m., Tuesday, May 1. Planting from 4-6 p.m.
Where: Memorial Park on Route 52 opposite Tallix Foundry. Planting at We Play Children's Park playground.
Contact: Mayor Clara Lou Gould at mayorbeacon@aol.com or 845-838-5010.

East Fishkill
What: Arbor Day tree plantings. East Fishkill Girl Scouts are encouraged to attend; all others are welcome.
When: Three plantings to be held at 10:30 a.m., noon and 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 28.
Where: Across from the snack bar at the Hopewell Junction recreation area.
Contact: Brent Feldwig at 845-297-4247.

Hyde Park
What: Announcement of Arbor Day poster contest winner on the theme: "Trees are Terrific ... and Forests are, too" from among 68 fifth-graders from five Hyde Park schools. Arbor Day tree planting also scheduled.
When: Poster contest announcement and display from 4-6 p.m., Tuesday, April 17. Tree planting at 10 a.m., Friday, April 27.
Where: Poster announcement and display at Henry A. Wallace Center at the FDR Presidential Library and Home. Planting will be at Violet Avenue School on Route 9G.
Call: Supervisor's office at 845-229-5111 ext. 104.
Web: www.hydeparkny.us

What: Arbor Day tree planting ceremony recognizing Kingston as Tree City USA with speakers. DEC "Treeture" will talk to children. Ulster County Cornell Cooperative Extension will give a planting demonstration for the children and give them small trees to plant at home.
When: 10 a.m., Friday, April 27.
Where: In front of John F. Kennedy School, 12 Gross St.
Contact: Mary Jo Wiltshire Parks Administrator parks@ci.kingston.ny.us or call 845-331-1682.

Plant trees, shear llamas
What: Earth Day celebration. Activities include sheep and llama shearing, tree plantings and animal programs.
When: 11 a.m., Saturday, April 21.
Where: The Forsyth Nature Center.
Cost: Free.
Call: 845-331-1682.
Web: www.forsythnaturecenter.org

What: Arbor Day tree plantings.
When: 10 a.m., Saturday, May 5.
Where: Gardner Street and Heritage Center near Third Street entrance between Liberty and Grand.
Contact: City of Newburgh at shade tree@cityofnewburgh-ny.gov or Chris Knasiak at knasiak55@earthlink.net or 845-565-8906.

What: Arbor Day event celebrating Poughkeepsie's 28th year as a Tree City USA. There will be a tree planting and speakers.
When: 9:30 a.m., Friday, April 27.
Where: Poughkeepsie High School.
Contact: Virginia Hancock at jmikeh@aol.com or 845-471-0183.

Arborists to donate help
What: Arbor Day tree maintenance. Four arborists will donate services at Springside National Historic Landmark on Academy Street.
When: Friday, April 27.
Contact: Virginia Hancock at jmikeh@aol.com or 845-471-0183.

Earth Day event set
What: Earth Day celebration . featuring food, music and information from environmental organizations.
When: Noon to 2 p.m., Thursday, April 19.
Where: Main campus walkway at Dutchess Community College.
Call: Wendy Bohlinger at 845-431-8089.

Red Hook
Kids to learn about trees
What: Memorial Park event will celebrate Red Hook's first year as a Tree City USA with Karen Hadley's kindergarten class from Mill Road School. The class will learn about New York's state tree and maple sugaring.
When: 9 a.m., Friday, April 27.
Where: Memorial Park.

Seedling giveaway
What: 100 native tree seedlings to be given away. Trees will also be planted along a new trail leading to the Red Hook Rec Park.
When: Saturday, April 28.
Where: Red Hook recycling center.
Contact: Brenda Cagle at brendacagle@yahoo.com or 845-758-0504.

Planting, award planned
What: Tree planting. The Village Green tree committee will present an award to honor a local resident who has supported the committee's goals. Afterward, 20 trees will be planted along village streets.
When: 9 a.m., Saturday, April 28.
Where: Memorial Park.
Contact: Brenda Cagle at brendacagle@yahoo.com or 845-758-0504.

Earth Day fest, expo
What: An Earth Day celebration and Expo with "how-to" seminars to fight global warming, reduce energy costs, and build green homes. The Earthfest will include music, art, locally prepared foods, and a variety of educational activities and programs.
When: The Expo will be from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, April 21. The Earthfest will be from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. rain or shine.
Where: The Expo will be inside the Rosendale Community Center on Route 32. Earthfest will be held outside it.
Cost: For both the expo and the earthfest: $5 individual or $10 family.
Call: Ilonka Metsger about the Expo at 845-339-3062 or Jennifer Metzger about the Earthfest at 845-658-8967.

Wappingers Falls
Earth Day trail tour set
What: Tour of the new tree interpretive trail at Stony Kill Farm Environmental Education Center and open house of a geothermically heated/cooled classroom with local nature artists. Children and adults can join staff planting seedlings on site. There will be food from local farms and nature activities.
When: Noon to 4:30 p.m., Sunday, April 22.
Where: Manor house on Route 9D in Wappingers Falls.
Contact: Sue Kmiotek at 845-831-8780 ext. 300.

Copyright 2007, Poughkeepsie Journal. Reprinted with Permission.
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