Plan calls for planting 3,500 trees per year citywide

Public comment period begins Feb 12th

Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh announced the release of the City of Syracuse Urban Forest Master Plan to establish a 20-year strategy to grow, protect, and care for Syracuse’s tree canopy. The Master Plan, developed after a five-month public input process, sets forth new ways of engaging residents and young people through a community collaboration called ReLeaf Syracuse.

The Plan recommends three over-arching goals: increase education and engagement, grow canopy, and improve canopy quality and location. The biggest element of the plan is to increase the canopy from 27% to 34% by planting over 3,500 trees per year citywide over 20 years.

“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.”

To develop the Plan, the City gathered input through interactive public meetings and online surveys organized by the Onondaga Earth Corps with the guidance of stakeholders. Over 1,200 residents responded to the survey and over 300 attended the public meetings. “The public engagement process revealed that people have a strong affinity for trees,” said Greg Michel, Executive Director of Onondaga Earth Corps. “People recognize the benefits of trees and support a growing canopy, closing the gaps between neighborhoods, and taking better care of what we have.”

Steve Harris, City arborist from Syracuse Parks, Recreation and Youth Services, and board member for the national Society of Municipal Arborists, will lead a 2-month public comment period during meetings starting on Wednesday, Feb. 12 at the Bob Cecile Center, Valley TNT meeting beginning at 7 p.m. A citywide public meeting will be held on Tuesday, Feb. 25 in the City Hall Commons Atrium (201 E. Washington St.). The final draft of the plan will be subject to review by the Syracuse Common Council, allowing the Parks department Forestry Bureau to use the recommendations as the foundation of a new municipal tree ordinance, last modified in 1981.

Consultants from the Davey Resource Group, an urban forest and environmental consulting firm, analyzed extensive tree inventory data and trends to determine the City’s potential future canopy cover and inform strategies to support a healthier thriving forest. For example, the Southside Neighborhood District has 22% canopy cover (below the 27% citywide tree cover). The Master Plan projects that there is potential to double that cover. The Lakefront District, soon to be home to a new mixed-use neighborhood has the second lowest canopy cover in the City (11%) but could triple if developers plan for trees in their projects.

“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.

Closing the gap in canopy cover for neighborhoods with lower median incomes is even more important. Harris says 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.

Implementing the Plan will require a broad-based education campaign executed in an inclusive manner. To accomplish this, the City has enlisted the help of Onondaga Earth Corps (OEC) to participate in the upcoming public meetings. Since being founded in 2005, OEC has provided education and employment to over 300 youth and young adults, planted over 10,500 trees, and maintained over 25 green infrastructure sites. Sarah Anderson, senior manager of Tree Equity for American Forests said “The intentional collaboration between the City and OEC is unique. It is 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.”

Cities are also recognizing that increasing tree canopy is a major strategy to combat climate change. Syracuse’s 1.5 million trees store an estimated 247,000 tons of carbon according to the U.S. Forest Service. This is equivalent to the amount of carbon released by one month of driving by 37,000 vehicles ( Trees throughout cities are responsible for 17% of the nation’s carbon sink. Harris concludes, “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.”

To read the Urban Forest Master Plan visit:

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