For Peter and Joan Mitchell, the red maple in front of their house on Edgerton Street is more than just a tree. It’s the starting point of a memory they’ll share for many years with their 4-year-old granddaughter, Julia.
And as one of the newest additions to an urban forest of almost 70,000 trees, it’s also a good example of why the Arbor Day Foundation recently named Rochester Tree City USA for the 28th consecutive year.
Julia visits the Mitchell's home in the Park Avenue Neighborhood twice each week, so she’s well aware that her grandparents helped select the red maple, along with a red oak, to replace a dying Norway maple that was recently removed from their tree lawn after technicians with the City’s Forestry Division had deemed it unsafe.
The City has a policy to match each tree removal with a planting. Because the space where the Mitchell’s old tree once stood was large enough, the City decided to give the couple two new trees instead of just one.
This thrilled Peter Mitchell, who has lived in his Park Avenue area house for 33 years. An admitted tree enthusiast, Mr. Mitchell stayed in close contact with Carol Kodweis, the forestry technician working on his tree plantings. He has forged a connection with the forestry employees and in particular, Ms. Kodweis, who he says listened patiently to his requests and was very accommodating.
Ms. Kodweis collaborated with the couple when determining which trees they would receive. Based upon the site characteristics and the ability of the trees to grow to full potential there, she offered them a red maple and a red oak.
At the Mitchell's request, the City crew that removed the Norway Maple even left the logs behind to fuel the wood-burning stove in their kitchen.
The couple believes this focus on customer satisfaction is a major reason Rochester is consistently named a "Tree City." Rochester has not only met the rigorous requirements of the title for almost three decades, but no other town or city in New York State has been honored with the award for as many years. The Mitchells say this commitment to the urban forest is not only great for current Rochesterians, but is a selling point for the city that will benefit future generations like Julia's.
The two types of trees that grace the Mitchell's tree lawn are only a fraction of the 500 trees, spanning 22 species, that the City will plant this season in its ongoing vigilance to maintain an urban forest that includes more than 165 species. This diversity is one method the City uses to prevent a large-scale infestation of any particular species from eliminating all of the trees on a street or in a park. Currently, technicians are on the lookout for signs of the Emerald Ash Borer, a beetle discovered in Michigan in 2002 that has been making its way towards New York State.
As a result, technicians have not planted any ash trees in several years and are carefully monitoring more than 7,000 ash trees that are part of the urban forest.
The Mitchells were more than willing to help maintain their part of the forest.
Shortly after the trees were planted in their yard, Mr. Mitchell called Ms. Kodweis and asked how often he should water the new additions to his streetscape. The lifelong city resident quickly learned that the Forestry Division equips each newly planted tree with a green “Gator Bag,” a time-released watering device that ensures proper hydration. This is a major reason Rochester has a 95 percent success rate for new tree plantings.
All the Mitchells have to do now is sit back and watch their trees grow – and pass their own love of trees on to Julia.
When she visits each Tuesday and Thursday, Julia experiences the city where her grandparents raised her mom and aunt. She and her grandparents walk through the neighborhood to watch squirrels at Cobbs Hill Park or have lunch at one of the many cafes on Park Avenue.
Peter Mitchell will point out the wide variety of trees they’ll pass on these strolls. Those trees are nice, Julia says. But none of them is the red maple that her grandparents helped select.
“It’s my favorite,” she insists.