April 29, 2011

City marks Arbor Day by planting elm on Main St.

Cortland celebrates its fourth year being named a Tree City USA by Arbor Foundation

BudgetJoe McIntyre/staff photographer
Members of the city of Cortland Landscape and Design Commission, from left, Tom Tobin, Jim Maloney, Barry Batzing, Suzanne Etherington and Diane Batzing, work together to plant a homestead elm tree this morning on south Main Street in front of the Star Bistro.

Staff Reporter

It took a little extra effort this year, but members of the city’s Landscape and Design Commission planted a homestead elm today on south Main Street by the Starr Bistro as a part of an Arbor Day ceremony.
After the tree was slid off the truck into a hole that was not large or deep enough, the commission members shifted the tree and dug around it.
The process, which took over an hour, was more work than last year, when the commission planted a spruce tree on Church Street.
The planting was a part of the city being named a member of the Tree City USA community for the fourth straight year.
The recognition, meant to show the commitment to urban forestry, is designated by the Arbor Day Foundation, a nonprofit, environmental and education organization with more than 1 million members who urge people to plant, nurture and celebrate trees.
About 3,400 cities and towns across the country participate as a Tree City USA community.
The city met the standards to receive the honor by having an Arbor Day proclamation and observance, a tree care ordinance, a comprehensive community forestry program, and a tree committee — the Landscape and Design Commission.
“Our main focus is the urban forest,” said Suzanne Etherington, a commission member. “To promote and maintain it, and to educate people.”
Unlike some other cities, Cortland does not have a tree department or arborist on staff.
Chairman Mike Dexter, like the six other people on the Landscape and Design Commission, volunteers his time to educate people about trees.
“We are people who take our jobs seriously,” Dexter said.
Dexter joined the commission when it formed in 2003 to oppose Niagara Mohawk’s taking down trees on Church Street.
“We try to educate people to see the value of trees, not just aesthetically, but what they do for the environment,” Dexter said.
According to the Arbor Day Foundation, trees filter the air and promote healthier communities, conserve water and provide habitat for wildlife, increase property value and reduce energy consumption.
The city, which is running on a tight budget, has struggled to meet the Arbor Day Foundation’s goal of $2 per city resident spent on an urban forestry program, Dexter said.
With about 18,000 residents, $36,000 needs to be spent.
Last year the city spent about $12,000 on the tree lottery and $17,000 on tree removal.
It needed to use another $6,000 in saved payments received from National Grid over the years to replace trees that needed to be removed.
Dexter praised Jim Maloney, an arborist with the Central New York Forestry Division of National Grid, for his help in an advisory role with the Landscape and Design Commission.
Dexter said he was hoping money would not be as tight next year, since the city has applied for a matching grant through the state Department of Environmental Conservation, which could be used to expand the tree lottery.
The tree lottery will have about 40 more trees for planting this year, and residents can find the forms to apply on the city’s website,, or at City Hall.


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