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Officials concerned over the health of trees in Syracuse

Ellen Abbott
Syracuse City Arborist Stephen Harris

The quality of trees in the City of Syracuse is on the decline, which has prompted tree enthusiasts to launch a new initiative to ensure the future health of trees in the city.

City Arborist Stephen Harris says it’s not the number of trees in Syracuse that tells the tale.

"Since the Labor Day storm, which was almost 20 years ago, canopy cover has remained the same, at about 27 percent," said Harris. "But when you look under the hood you see a decline in tree quality."

That means fewer sugar maples lining streets, and more invasive species like Buckthorn. To avoid further erosion of the city’s tree stock, a new initiative is underway, called "ReLeaf Syracuse."

It begins with a series of public meetings to educate residents about trees as well as gather citizen input, to help the city draft new tree management plans.

Helping the city is the Onondaga Earth Corps. 21-year old Taveon Stenson is among the youth corps that prunes and plants trees across the city. He jokes that he has sap in his veins, and wants others to be aware of how trees affect their life.

"You already care without really knowing. We want to clarify the misconception on things, and we just want to educate," said Stenson.

The group hopes to collect 1,000 responses to surveys as well as host hundreds of central New Yorkers in a series of public meetings. The first meeting will be held at Syracuse City Hall Commons on July 25.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.