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ReLeaf Syracuse Planting Trees to Increase Canopy and Community Engagement


ReLeaf Syracuse, the City’s Urban Forest Master Plan is an initiative for the future development of the trees and partnerships. The initiative partnerships include the Syracuse Parks Department, Onondaga Earth Corps (OEC) and a committee of community organizations, businesses, and government agencies.

The City hopes to increase education and engagement of residents and young people throughout the community, grow canopy, and improve canopy quality and location. Multiplying the citywide canopy over 20 years by planting over 3,500 trees per year.

“The Urban Forest Master Plan will promote new ways to increase tree canopy to benefit the health and sustainability of all neighborhoods and for all Syracusans,” said Mayor Walsh.

“It also lays the groundwork for how to update our municipal tree ordinance which guides how we protect and care for trees in the City. Urban Forests are an important quality of life issue and it is time to modernize the laws around trees.”

The OEC who has provided education and employment to young adults, planted over 10,500 trees, and preserved several green infrastructure sites, has collected input from public meetings and online surveys.

Over 1,200 residents took part in the surveys. There were over 300 meeting attendees, the OEC will assist with upcoming meetings. A citywide public meeting will be held at City Hall, February 25.

“The public engagement process revealed that people have a strong affinity for trees,” said Greg Michel, Executive Director of OEC.

“People recognize the benefits of trees and support a growing canopy, closing the gaps between neighborhoods, and taking better care of what we have.”

Syracuse Parks, Recreation and Youth Services City arborist, Steve Harris began February 12 leading the 2-month public comment period. A review of the final draft will be done by Syracuse Common Council. The Parks department Forestry Bureau will provide counsel for a new tree ordinance.

“Research has shown that tree-lined business districts do better business. People linger longer and spend more money, creating higher value for the development and lower vacancy rates. They become destinations. It all comes down to design for green. The City looks forward to working with developers to make the neighborhood a green destination.” said Harris.

Harris said the plan will help the City better engage with residents to promote the benefits of trees, accommodate resident concerns, and identify resources to expand the tree canopy.

“The intentional collaboration between the City and OEC is unique. It provides excellent work and leadership experiences to young people in an industry with a long-term projected shortage of employees. With a program like OEC in place, a community investment in trees is really an investment in people,” said Sarah Anderson, senior manager of Tree Equity for American Forests.

“There is an opportunity to green up our city and provide opportunities for young people while addressing our most pressing environmental concern – climate change. We must capture the passion and creativity of our community to achieve 34% tree canopy or better yet set an even bigger goal,” Harris said.

The Urban Forest Master Plan as well as listings of upcoming meetings can be found at http://www.syracuse.ny.us/Parks/forestry.html.

Further information regarding ReLeaf Syracuse can be found at http://www.onondagaearthcorps.org/releaf-syracuse/.