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Spring Cleaning, 2019

Monday last week, as I was walking through Allentown I came across several groups with bags picking up litter. I realized it was the scheduled Earth Day cleanup we’d posted about. It was one of the first events this year in a growing custom of cleaning up the outdoors in the spring the way folks have always traditionally done indoors.

Around the city this time of year neighborhoods and organizations hold cleanups and tree plantings, and if you want to “brighten the corner where you are,” in a way the math is easy: remove trash from the streets and add trees to them. This is the time of year when, as glad as we are to see the snow (finally!) gone, trash is the most visible, as is winter damage to the street trees. It’s also the last time you can get college student volunteers before their two-week blitz to the end of the semester.

That was the case in University Heights, where students from UB helped The Tool Library’s Re-Tree the District initiative plant trees on the eastern end of Amherst Street, near Bailey. Overseeing the work was The Tool Library’s Darren Cotton and sponsoring was Re-Tree WNY.

They planted twenty-one trees in an area that has gotten a renewed focus in recent years with projects like a new school building and murals and Bailey Fights Blight, but still struggles with vacant commercial property and vacant homes – and, like much of the city, entrenched poverty.

The home base for the planting was Kensington-Bailey Neighborhood Housing Services (NHS), a NeighborWorks affiliate, whose parent organization is the University District Community Development Association.

While there, I learned that this was the “mother” NHS for Buffalo, founded in 1976. It was originally intended to serve the entire city, until City Hall decided to have an NHS in several council districts. The original Buffalo NHS then became what we now know as Kensington-Bailey NHS, primarily serving the University district.

This spring’s tree plantings mark an important milestone for Re-Tree WNY and Paul Maurer, as it marked the planting of the 30,000th tree (their original goal), which took place last week.

But that doesn’t mean Re-Tree is done. Why stop now? Especially in the face of climate change, we need trees now more than ever. From our post last week,

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,

After the tree planting in Kensington-Bailey, I headed for the Central Terminal for their annual spring cleanup. I didn’t get there in time, but Spectrum News did. The Central Terminal Restoration Corporation told me that thirty or so hardy souls did make it, and worked on projects inside and out to help get one of Buffalo’s most beloved landmarks ready for another season of visitors and events.

The weekend also found other cleanups and plantings around the city, including a major effort on Hertel Avenue, and an Allentown tree planting organized by Daniel Culross. After a dozen years of such plantings Culross and his crew have become, essentially, Allentown’s arborists. About their efforts, he said,

After participating and coordinating for every Re-Tree Planting over the last twelve years, I can say with confidence that the Allentown/Kleinhans area has seen about a 75–85% survival rate. Is it the same for each block club and group? Surely not. But we have a few of the hybrid elms that are now as tall as a house.

If you missed these events there are still plenty of opportunities to pitch in to make Buffalo a better place. Perhaps most notable is the second annual cleanup of Grant Street this coming Saturday (which we posted about here) meeting at the office of Assemblyman Sean Ryan, who has really taken the street under his wing since moving his office there.

And of course the big kahuna of cleanups, Buffalo-Niagara Waterkeeper’s Shoreline Sweep, is coming up May 11.

No matter where you are, you can find a chance to dig in or pitch in to make our world a nicer place.

Note: If you know of other cleanups or tree plantings coming up, feel free to mention in the comments with a link to details, or add to the Buffalo Rising calendar.

Get connected:

Second annual Grant Street spring cleaning, Saturday, May 4

Buffalo-Niagara Waterkeeper Shoreline Sweep, Saturday, May 11

Parks and Trails NY’s Love My Park Day, Saturday, May 4 (locations around the region)

Written by RaChaCha


RaChaCha is a Garbage Plate™ kid making his way in a Chicken Wing world. Since 2008, he's put over a hundred articles on here, and he asked us to be sure to thank you for reading. So, thank you for reading. You may also have seen his freelance byline in Artvoice, where he writes under the name his daddy gave him [Ed: Send me a check, and I might reveal what that is]. When he's not writing, RaChaCha is an urban planner, a rehabber of houses, and a community builder. He co-founded the Buffalo Mass Mob, and would love to see you at the next one. He represents Buffalo Young Preservationists on the Trico roundtable. If you try to demolish a historic building, he might have something to say about that. He is a proud AmeriCorps alum.

Things you may not know about RaChaCha (unless you read this before): "Ra Cha Cha" is a nickname of his hometown. (Didn't you know that? Do you live under a rock?) He's a political junkie (he once worked for the president of the Monroe County Legislature), but we don't really let him write about politics on here. He helped create a major greenway in the Genesee Valley, and worked on early planning for the Canalway Trail. He hopes you enjoy biking and hiking on those because that's what he put in all that work for. He was a ringleader of the legendary "Chill the Fill" campaign to save Rochester's old downtown subway tunnel. In fact, he comes from a long line of troublemakers. An ancestor fought at Bunker Hill, and a relative led the Bear Flag Revolt in California. We advise you to remember this before messing with him in the comments. He worked on planning the Rochester ARTWalk, and thinks Buffalo should have one of those, too (write your congressman).

You can also find RaChaCha (all too often, we frequently nag him) on the Twitters at @HeyRaChaCha. Which is what some people here yell when they see him on the street. You know who you are.

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