When you look out of the window of your house, do you see a tree planted in-between the street and the sidewalk? If you don’t, there might be a problem. You see, trees are not only pretty, they also add to the value of your house. They protect you from sun and rain in the summer, and provide fresh air. There are countless benefits from having a tree-lined street.
Unfortunately, urban trees have a tough time, compared to their forested cousins. They have to deal with road salt, narrow plots of land, drought conditions, bypassing trucks, disease, winter storms… the list goes on and on.
Did you know that Buffalo was once called The City of Trees? If you stand atop a tall building, you can see how that would be possible. This city is lush with trees, when viewed from afar.
But upon closer inspection, its tree count is troubling, especially since the arrival of the emerald ash borer.
The only way that we can combat further tree loss is to rely upon the City, which has limited resources, Re-Tree WNY, and ourselves.
There is not a neighborhood in Buffalo that couldn’t benefit from trees being planted. And sometimes, it’s up to the community to take up the mission. This past weekend, a volunteer group of neighbors came together to plant 20 trees on Dana, Hallam, and Bedford, near Amherst Street.
“Several of us got together to come up with a strategy to re-tree these streets,” said Frits Abell, who has become a big proponent of greening Buffalo over the years. “We reached out to Paul Maurer of Re-Tree and said that we wanted to partner with the organization for the tree planting effort. We told him that we would create a neighborhood campaign, to help raise funds for the trees, and also provide volunteers. We created a schedule and timeline, and organized a committee, posted on social media, and went door-to-door asking if neighbors would be interested in seeing trees planted on their vacant hellstrips. We also asked the neighbors in they would be interested in donating towards the Re-Tree initiative, or volunteering. Then, we held a fundraising event over the summer.
“Gene Genco contacted the City to get the data from their GIS System, per what varieties of trees could be planted in the neighborhood, which allowed the homeowners to request particular trees that would be planted in front of their houses. Then we came up with a tree planting date, and worked backwards from there. ReTree procured the trees, delivered them, and instructed between 18-20 volunteers how to plant them… and how to take care of them. It was amazing to see young people out helping, who were genuinely excited to see the trees being planted. In coming years, they will watch the trees grow, and have a sense of pride, which means that they will want to take care of them.”
As a way to further give back to the city (because everyone benefits), this particular tree advocate group is looking into helping less fortunate neighborhoods plant trees. They are currently looking at ways to make that happen, because they know how important it is for all streets to be tree-lined.
“I believe that this is a templateable model,” said Abell. “Planting 20 trees might not seem like a big deal, but now that we’ve done it, neighbors on other streets are asking questions. So our plan is to work with another set of streets in the spring, to teach more people about the importance of trees. This has to happen on a micro level, for it to make sense – it’s manageable on this scale. The impact is impressive when it’s all said and done. I would love to see Buffalo regain its title – City of Trees – as the most treed city in the US.”
Caring for our trees is a constant battle, and we must remain vigilant (just ask The Lorax, who speaks for the trees). At the same time, if we can make the process easier… even fun. With youth-oriented engagement, block parties, etc., it won’t be as much like work as it will be a prideful rallying cry for beautifying our deserving neighborhoods.
Is this the manageable model for re-treeing Buffalo that we have been calling for? Let’s hope so.