In October of 2006, a freak snowstorm hit Buffalo before the leaves of the trees had a chance to drop. The slick snow stuck to the leaves and branches, weighing down the branches until they snapped. Altogether, 57,000 trees located in public areas were lost, which was a hard hit for a city that was once known as The City of Trees.
While the storm was tragic, one good thing did arise from the aftermath – ReTree Western New York. The organization set out to replace the trees, which, as you can imagine, was a daunting task. But ReTree figured that it could handle half the burden (30,000 trees), if the other half was handled by local municipalities. In response, eighteen municipalities stepped up by committing to “a one-for-one match”, which provided the necessary resources to complete the herculean task.
Nearly 12 years since the establishment of Re-Tree (part of The Buffalo Green Fund), the organization has announced that its goal has reached completion.
To commemorate the effort, a tree representing the 30,000th tree, will be planted at Canalside on Arbor Day (Friday, April 26, 2019, at 10:30 AM). The event will be attended by a number of local dignitaries, including Warren T. Colville, Sr., publisher of The Buffalo News, Byron W. Brown, Mayor of Buffalo; Brian M. Higgins, US Representative; and Richard S. Gold, M&T Bank President, and James E. Hornung, Sr., Chairman of the Board of The Buffalo Green Fund. Paul D. Maurer, Chairman of Re-Tree, will also speak.
The “final tree” designated for the planting will also honor the memory of Mark J. Czarnecki, who passed away unexpectedly in February 2017. Mr. Czarnecki was president of M&T Bank, and an advocate for trees.
“Mark was a dear friend and loved trees,” states Mr. Colville, “When we lost him so tragically two years ago, I asked Re-Tree to remember him in a special way and they decided to dedicate their 30,000th tree in memory of him.”
Mark’s son, Christopher M. Czarnecki, will represent the family by helping to plant the tree.
The Buffalo News, through its Green Leaf Campaign, was also instrumental in helping with the fundraising efforts over the years. The campaign, with seed money from publisher Stanford Lipsey (who passed in 2016) and his wife Judith Lipsey, managed to raise a half million dollars.
In addition to the tree planting, a wayfinding plaque will be placed at the foot of the Swamp White Oak tree, so that passersby will have a better understanding and appreciation for ReTree’s “goal tree”. The plaque and the tree will speak for an entire community that came to the rescue when its trees were at great risk. This community effort should give us all hope that maybe, someday, this city can once again regain the title The City of Trees.
“We are finally seeing the fruits of the labor of literally thousands of volunteers who have dedicated themselves to getting our trees planted for the last 12 years,” states Paul D. Maurer, chairman of Re-Tree. “This is their moment!”
“The Buffalo Green Fund was established to cultivate, promote, foster, sponsor and develop urban beautification, and to stimulate the interest of the public,” says Hornung. “Western New York has seen plenty of devastation to its trees, thanks to Dutch Elm Disease, the Emerald Ash Borer, and the October 2006 Storm. The dedication and efforts of area municipalities and Re-Tree organizers and volunteers are to be applauded as they complete this mission so successfully.”
Moving forward, ReTree will play a part in helping the community to maintain the trees. It will do this through its Communi-Tree Steward Project, which kicked off two years ago. The project, coordinated with Cornell Cooperative, The Buffalo Green Fund, and the City of Buffalo, is a five-week course that provides training for volunteers to care for the trees.
And in the end, ReTree will also stick around to ensure that additional trees get planted, by raising additional funds and helping tree-oriented projects to get off the ground. Anyone who has an interest in proposing a project is encouraged to do so by visiting the organization’s website, www.re-treewny.org.