Urban forestry volunteers needed

This year's CommuniTree Stewards Program starts a new training classes in early April. CommuniTree Stewards are volunteers who care for young trees in public places including street trees, and trees in parks, at schools and at municipal buildings. This year there are many exciting green infrastructure projects involving trees that will need the help of the Stewards.

Cornell Cooperative Extension's Urban and Community Forestry Education Program coordinates the volunteer program in partnership with the Syracuse city arborist and municipal staff from communities throughout Onondaga County. Extension educators train stewards in the technical skills and knowledge needed to properly plant and prune young trees. In exchange for 10 hours of training in tree biology and identification, site assessment, species selection, planting requirement and pruning methods, stewards provide 15 hours of tree care.

Work projects vary from large group, high energy projects like tree planting and mulching park trees to small groups working on structural pruning of street trees and give volunteers an opportunity to get to know a wide variety of the communities and parks in Onondaga County.

Since the program started in 2003, there have been 209 stewards trained with a return of 5,900 hours caring for more than 2,300 trees including planting over 1,000 trees in Syracuse and surrounding villages. The stewards also help with other beautification projects, mainly in parks.

The new flowerbeds at Onondaga Lake Park visitors' center and the entrance to Oneida Shores Park were beautification projects the stewards took on in 2008.

Over the past six years, the program has built an experienced corps of tree stewards who lend invaluable help for the annual Community Tree Planting Program during the week after Election Day. Each year several communities buy bare root trees through Cooperative Extension's bulk tree purchase program and stewards help plant them throughout the county. Experienced tree planters assure that the bare root trees are planted correctly and have the best chance to flourish. Bare root trees suitable for street trees are eight to 10 or more feet tall and have no soil on their roots at planting time, making them easy to carry by hand and inexpensive to ship. Their planting needs are specific, but easy to learn. This year, Cooperative Extension will need many volunteers to care for the hundreds of recently planted trees and to plant an unprecedented number of new trees during the Fall Community Tree Planting.

If you are interested in learning more about the CommuniTree Stewards and other volunteer urban forestry projects with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Onondaga, contact Fran Lawlor, Resource Educator, 220 Herald Place, Syracuse, NY 13202. Phone: 424-9485; email: FML7@cornell.edu.

The CommuniTree Steward Program brochure and application is available from Fran or on the CCE Onondaga Web site: counties.cce.cornell.edu/onondaga//urban_forestry_vo lunteer_opportunities.php.

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