Rochester forms Tree Committee, debuts ‘Rochester 100’ project

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published April 29, 2021

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ROCHESTER — Over the next year, the city of Rochester plans to add over 100 trees to its canopy.

The initiative, called “Rochester 100,” was organized by the city’s new Tree Committee and was announced April 22 in conjunction with its Arbor Day celebration.

The city has long been committed to growing its tree canopy, officials said. Rochester recently achieved its seventh annual Tree City USA status designation by meeting the program’s four requirements: The city was required to have a tree board or department, a tree care ordinance, an annual community budget of at least $2 per capita, and an Arbor Day observance and proclamation.

Although the city is proud of its seventh such designation, Rochester City Councilman Mark Albrecht said the City Council felt they really had to step up and do more.

“When you have new development and housing, you have to be protective of your tree canopy,” said Albrecht, who also serves as chair of the city’s Tree Committee.

In 2020, the city formed its new Tree Committee — which includes Albrecht, Rochester City Councilman Dean Bevacqua, Mayor Pro Tem Nancy Salvia, and residents Melissa Weisse and Bill Thomas — to educate residents on the value of the urban canopy.

Since then, Albrecht said, the committee has worked to revise the city’s tree ordinance and continues to look at development, making sure that when homeowners or developers build, trees are replaced or money is paid into the city’s tree fund. The committee, Albrecht explained, is also in the process of establishing an annual tree report which will include, for the first time, figures related to the city’s existing tree canopy, and allocating the city’s tree fund to plant more trees in the city this year.

The city has approximately $31,000 saved up in its tree fund this year to help support the Rochester 100 program.

“That money is not taxpayer money, so we’re not taking money out of the general fund,” Albrecht explained. “We don’t want that money. We want it to go directly into trees.”

The Tree Committee has pledged a goal of planting 100 new trees citywide by the end of 2021 — a goal they say will be accomplished over the next year via a new reimbursement program for the private sector, along with a street-tree planting program led by the Rochester Parks Department staff

The city, through its new private sector program, will share the cost of planting a new tree on private property, providing up to a 50% match for a tree valued up to $500. Albrecht said the property owner is responsible for the other half of the cost, as well as for obtaining the tree; ensuring proper planting; staking, if necessary; and obtaining a one-year standard nursery warranty.

Deputy City Manager Nik Banda, who is a professional forester, said he and the Parks and Recreation Department will work directly with property owners to pick an appropriate species in order to maximize the chance of survival.

“I don’t want to see our $250 wasted, so each site will be individually looked at to make sure we put the right species in,” he said.

The committee hopes to get 50 property owners to apply for the program, which will officially begin in late summer to early fall. Residents will be able to pick up an application from Rochester City Hall beginning May 15.

The Tree Committee plans to plant another 50 trees within several public access sites around the city by the end of the year.

“We are going to identify areas throughout the city  — in public right of ways that you and I pass every day on our drive or in different areas that we enjoy — and we’re going to plant 50 big-caliper trees, not small little scrub trees that will take years to grow,” Albrecht said.

Moving forward, the city plans to continue planting trees using money from its tree fund.

“I can’t commit that next year we’ll have another 100 trees — we’ll have as much as we can support through the tree fund — but our goal each year is to zero out the tree fund and use that money to put in trees,” Albrecht said.

For more information about the Rochester Tree Committee and the reimbursement program, visit www.rochestermi.org/treezone or email Deputy City Manager Nik Banda at nbanda@rochestermi.org.

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