Syracuse Celebrates Arbor Day with Student Tree Planting and Memorial

Published on October 12, 2023

SYRACUSE, N.Y. - The City of Syracuse Department of Parks, Recreation and Youth Programs Forestry Division today held an Arbor Day tree planting event with the students from Syracuse STEM at Blodgett Middle School. The event aimed to grow our tree canopy, educate our youth about the importance of trees, and allow for an interactive learning experience.

“This year, Arbor Day celebrates the leadership of young people in their efforts to design a healthy community greenspace using the power of trees,” said City Arborist Steve Harris.  “This aligns with ongoing efforts outlined in our Urban Forest Masterplan as we work towards growing canopy equitably, improving urban forest safety and resiliency and connecting the entire community to the urban forest.”

The City’s Forestry department celebrates Arbor Day each year in the fall by choosing a different school to participate in planting new trees for their community. The plantings typically occur on school grounds, but this year the trees were planted beyond the schoolyard to this specialized designed space – for the youth, by the youth, which now includes two memorial trees to honor former classmate, Brexialee Torres Ortiz and teacher, Aisha Haskins-Stephens

The vacant lots at 701 Tully Street were identified by youth in the Peacemaking Center’s summer program and staff in the City of Syracuse Department of Neighborhood and Business Development as a location commonly used for littering and loitering, creating an unsafe space for youth. Using an approach modeled after the Philadelphia LandCare method, City departments and community partners began a strategic approach to remove and combat trash, debris and overgrowth. Using American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding, vacant lots were cleared, graded and seeded, and new fencing was installed.

While the physical changes were happening, students from Syracuse STEM at Blodgett Middle School learned about the use of green spaces to create community and improve wellness. Guided by a landscape designer, students explored different park designs and developed the plan used for today’s Arbor Day tree planting.  This project serves as the blueprint to integrate green spaces into the fabric of our neighborhoods moving forward.

Today’s Arbor Day planting included eighteen trees in total, led by Onondaga Earth Corps. The City of Syracuse’s Urban Forest Masterplan goal is to plant 42,000 trees in the City of Syracuse by 2042. This year, the Division of Forestry is on track to plant 2,000 trees.

The City of Syracuse Parks & Recreation is hosting two upcoming community tree plantings and looking for volunteers to help:

Look for additional tree planting events at

The City of Syracuse Forestry division operates within the Parks and Recreation Department and oversees the management of 35,000 street trees and 10,000 parks trees scattered across 400 miles of road and 1,000 acres of parkland. The city has held the Arbor Day Foundation’s Tree City USA® designation for 34 years. To learn more about the Urban Forest Masterplan visit