Infant-tree brigade fortifies Oneonta Creek

Shweta Karikehalli | The Daily Star Laura Grant, buffer specialist for the Upper Susquehanna Coalition, shows volunteers how to plant tree seedlings by a stream bank at Wilber Park on Wednesday. 

Volunteers gathered Wednesday morning at Wilber Park with a goal of planting approximately 80 trees along Oneonta Creek.

The event, called "Trees for Tributaries," was an initiative by the state Department of Environmental Conservation that aims to reforest New York's tributaries, or small streams and creeks that flow into larger water bodies. Planting trees along tributaries prevents erosion, increases flood water retention, improves wildlife and stream habitat and protects water quality, according to the DEC. 

Fallen tree leaves, which feed creek-dwelling organisms, and shade, which attracts fish, are among other factors that improve wildlife habitat in tributaries, said Laura Grant, a buffer specialist with the Upper Susquehanna Coalition, which was established to address nonpoint source water quality issues in the headwaters of the Chesapeake Bay.

Oneonta Creek plays a vital role in overall water health in the United States, as one of several tributaries that eventually flows into the Chesapeake Bay watershed, a large economically and environmentally important water resource with headwaters in Cooperstown.

Volunteers like Steve Londner, an Oneonta resident, recognize this importance. Londner said he believes it's important for local citizens to be directly involved in environmental conservation efforts.

"I saw the notice of the event and thought it would be a good thing to support," said Londner. "We all have skin in the game, and we show it."

This the first time the city of Oneonta has participated in a Trees for Tributaries event, said Ryan Mathews, an engineer with the city of Oneonta and one of the organizers of the event. He said he looks forward to continuing work with the DEC to help green up the city.

Oneonta spends more than $35,000 each year to improve the city's urban tree canopy, according to a media release. Urban trees increase property values, reduce energy consumption and can help bolster community relations in combination with green spaces, per the media release. 

Eric Roberts, a landscape management technician with the city of Oneonta, said that he looks forward to seeing the trees develop over the next 20-30 years.

"You get a good feeling seeing trees that you've planted successfully grow, and contribute to the beautification of an area," he said. 

The City of Oneonta Environmental Board is offering free trees to property owners. Those interested should contact David Hutchison at 607-433-2236.

Shweta Karikehalli, staff writer, can be reached at 607-441-7221 or skarikehalli@thedailystar.com. Follow her on Twitter at @DS_ShwetaK.