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Tree City in the making

Urban forestry study in Saratoga Springs aimed at development of tree plan

One of the big remaining elm trees in the Spa City enveloped by volunteers Rick Fenton, Jim Zack, Rayna Caldwell, Casey Holzworth and Tom Denny.

One of the big remaining elm trees in the Spa City enveloped by volunteers Rick Fenton, Jim Zack, Rayna Caldwell, Casey Holzworth and Tom Denny.

— The Master Tree Plan would encourage the removal of invasive species and the planting of native ones like hackberry, serviceberry, eastern redbud and dogwood.

Most of the effort involved in the project is already over. Sustainable Saratoga is now transitioning from the inventory phase, which accounts for 99 percent of the project, and into the planning stages. Volunteers worked on the inventory phase, including about a dozen SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry school alumni.

During the inventory, volunteers recorded tree diameter, species, condition and height. It took months, but the result is a full picture of the city’s arboreal resources that planners will use to create a Street Tree Management Plan.

Retired DEC Forester, Rick Fenton is also on the steering committee with Sustainable Saratoga. He said the group formed because there has never been a coordinated tree program in the city.

“Public Works has had crews pruning and taking down branches from trees in the strip between the sidewalks and streets and offer landowners in the city to plant trees. But it tends to be limited by budget and availability,” said Fenton.

He added that while Public Works does an excellent job at maintaining the city’s trees, there is a need to manage the urban forest. There are even some legacy trees in the city, including a few American elms near Broadway and a stand of oaks in Congress Park.

“They’re maybe not that old, but somebody had to have planted them,” said Fenton. “One of the basic requirements (of becoming a Tree City) is for the city to adopt a management plan.”

The management plan could lead to the Spa City being designated a Tree City under a program sponsored by the Arbor Day Foundation, the USDA Forest Service and the National Association of Foresters. There are more than 3,000 Tree City communities nationwide. Tree Cities have a Tree Board, a tree care ordinance, a community forestry program and observe Arbor Day.

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