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Tree Toga: Growing Saratogas Urban Forest Saturday, April 26th from 10am-2pm on Henry Street The Tree

Toga street festival on Saturday, April 26 will launch spring into high gear by celebrating Saratogas commitment to grow its urban forest. The festival will be the main event of Arbor Week, established as the week of April 20 through 26 in a proclamation signed by Mayor Joanne Yepsen, and Arbor Day, which this year falls on April 25. The event is a culmination of efforts between Commissioner Skip Sciroccos team in the citys Department of Public Works (DPW), Sustainable Saratogas Urban Forestry Project and Saratoga Springboard to engage Saratogians in a celebration of the citys trees. The festival will highlight the citys 2013 Urban and Community Forest Master Plan, the newly appointed city arborist and the importance of preserving and expanding our urban forest. Henry Street, between Lake and Caroline, will host a series of events for all ages including how-to demonstrations, food, live music, and childrens activities. This season, DPW will plant 17 large-growing trees in the commercial core, a high priority planting area in the Master Plan. Volunteers will plant another 5 trees there. You can already see an X spray-painted near Four Seasons Natural Foods store, one of several downtown sites proposed for the planting of large-growing street trees. Volunteers will plant 25 additional street trees in front of homes throughout the city.

Pictured left, City Arborist Josh Dulmer, Joel Flanders of DPW, and Rick Fenton of Sustainable Saratoga's Urban Forestry Project mark planting locations on one of Saratogas treeless streets. (photo credit: Tom Denny) As Saratoga embarks on its new urban forest goals, it is beneficial to look back at some of the citys street tree history, summarized in the 2013 Saratoga Springs Urban and Community Forest Master Plan. It is a story deeply rooted in the ebb and flow of the economy, community interest and political action. When Gideon Putnam arrived in the spring of 1789, he saw Saratoga as a forested gem and made his living from the local timber. He used the natural resource to plant the seeds of what would become the resort destination of Saratoga Springs. The removal of trees for the development of the new city left Broadway and other city streets nearly treeless.

The drawing on the left shows the earliest development on Broadway in 1826. By the late 1820s the village trustees set a goal to improve Saratogas street tree cover. Through tax incentives, trees were planted along Broadway, and soon matured to offer shade, comfort and splendor. The beauty of the citys trees came to play a prominent role in the development of Saratoga as a major tourist destination.

The drawing to the left shows a view of Broadway in 1851 looking north from Congress Spring. It highlights the street lined with large trees planted at 10-to15-foot intervals (Urban Forest Master Plan, 2013) Starting in the mid-twentieth century, Saratogas urban forest began to wane. Dutch elm disease killed most of the mature American elms, leaving many of the streets barren. In addition to disease, declines in funding and public apathy resulted in a period of urban deforestation. The photo to the right captures South Broadway, looking south from Lincoln Avenue, while it was still lined with elms. The fifth elm from the left is one of the few that survived Dutch elm disease, and is currently Saratogas largest elm. (Photo credit: Courtesy of the George S. Bolster Collection, Saratoga Springs History Museum) Saratogas Urban and Community Forest Master Plan also aims to educate the community about caring for our remaining elms and outlines the process for identifying and properly removing sick and dead elms to limit the spread of the disease. Below is a current photo of the same elm from the same vantage point of the 1940s picture to the right. One of our few legacy elms to survive to this day, this great tree is a symbolic gatepost at the southern entrance to our city. (Photo credit: James A. Zack, Xtra-Spatial Productions, LLC) During the 1970s Saratoga hit an economic low point. But the community rallied and, along Broadway and surrounding streets, replanted hundreds of trees, many of which offer the shade we enjoy today. The photo below shows one of those street tree planting days.

Although Broadway is now lined with trees, many places within the citys urban core remain barren. The Department of Public Works, in partnership with Sustainable Saratogas Urban Forestry project, aim to replant those treeless streets, making large openings in sidewalks for native trees that will grow large over time.

Why plant trees? Because trees pay us back for our investment. They help save energy, increase property values, reduce crime, mitigate stormwater runoff, and reduce noise and air pollution. More trees make our city more attractive, encouraging shoppers to stay longer. Saratoga is once again at the beginning of a hopeful period of urban reforestation. Just to maintain the current number of trees in city parks and along streets, the city would need to plant 535 trees every year, far more than the historic annual rate of 60 to 80 trees. However, a major Master Plan goal is to fill most of the gaps in the urban forest, increasing the number of trees from 15,000 to 19,000. Meeting that goal will require the planting of at least 800 trees every year for 20 years. The collaboration between volunteers and the citys Department of Public Works at the Tree Toga street festival will kick start the effort with the tree plantings this spring. Future efforts will continue to expand the urban forest and encourage new construction and renovation projects to incorporate more and bigger trees into the planning process. Tree Toga: Growing Saratogas Urban Forest will mark a new season of strategizing, planting and educating Saratogians about the vital importance of trees.