ReTree Schenectady

Contact Information
  • Betsy Henry
  • Stan Hickok
  • Phone: 518-370-5132
  • ReTree Schenectady
    1086 Morningside Avenue
    Schenectady, NY 12309
Flowering Cherry Morning side
Mission Statement
ReTree Schenectady is a non-profit organization dedicated to the planting, care, and conservation of current and future generations of trees in the City of Schenectady. Our goals are achieved by fostering community involvement through education and collaboration with local organizations and businesses.

ReTree Schenectady was founded in 1991 by concerned citizens of Schenectady, New York. The group was motivated by the rising loss of trees in Schenectady due to aging, disease, or injury. Schenectady had (and continues to have) limited funds for maintaining its urban forest and discontinued its municipal tree planting program in the 1980s.

Since its founding in 1991, ReTree Schenectady has facilitated the planting of over 3,000 trees, trained volunteers to plant and maintain trees, participated in community events to educate the public regarding tree planting and care, and developed a Tree Master Plan for the City of Schenectady. ReTree Schenectady has worked closely with the City of Schenectady, particularly with the Parks Department, the Public Works Department, and the Department of Neighborhood Revitalization. Alliances with other local organizations such as Schenectady 2000, Union College, Schenectady High School, the Boy Scouts, several churches, the General Electric Elfuns (a service organization), and numerous neighborhood associations have helped tremendously.

In 1998, ReTree Schenectady received a JCPenney Golden Rule Award for exceptional volunteer service. In 2002, the City Council of the City of Schenectady issued a resolution congratulating ReTree Schenectady on its tenth anniversary and acknowledging its continued efforts to make the city a better place to live. The City Council has also issued annual Arbor Day resolutions since 2004, recognizing our efforts on behalf of Schenectady’s trees.

Neighborhood Tree Project
Neighborhood Tree Project involves planting bare-root trees on thoroughfares, in parks, and in neighborhoods with the assistance of neighborhood residents and other community volunteers. On planting days in April and October, City staff deliver trees and mulch to the planting sites and ReTree Schenectady planting coordinators demonstrate and then supervise proper tree planting technique. Neighborhood residents and other community volunteers plant the trees. Tree recipients are shown how to maintain the trees and, in the spring, receive an informational flyer reminding them how to water the trees. ReTree Schenectady tracks viability of the trees through the growing season and beyond. Each year, ReTree Schenectady plants over 100 bare-root trees and has planted over 1,500 bare-root trees since 1999.

ReTree Schenectady is supported by the City of Schenectady, National Grid (through its 10,000 Tree and Growing Program), urban and community forestry grants from NYSDEC, and private donations. ReTree Schenectady is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization. Donations are tax-deductible and can be sent to:
ReTree Schenectady
1086 Morningside Avenue
Schenectady, NY 12309

Volunteer Opportunities
Tree planters on planting days in April and October
Planting supervisors on planting days
Board members to plan and implement plans

If You Want a Tree
Contact Betsy or Stan. We’ll assess your site and work you into our plans. Tree recipients are expected to assist on planting day with digging and/or watering, water trees regularly through the growing season, maintain mulch, and protect trees from injury. We encourage you to help organize a block planting and get your neighbors involved.

Recommended Tree Species
ReTree Schenectady has been planting bare-root trees in Schenectady since 1999 and has identified numerous species that can be reliably planted in the city. The trees are also recommended by the Urban Horticulture Institute at Cornell University for bare-root planting in urban environments. ReTree Schenectady is committed to increasing the diversity of trees in the urban forest and to using native trees, when appropriate and available. The standard size for bare-root planting is 1 ¾” caliper, although occasionally 1 ½” or 2” caliper trees are planted.

For underwire situations, trees of mature size less than 30 feet are planted. These shorter trees include:
  • Acer campestre (hedge maple)
  • Acer truncatum (shantung maple)
  • Amelanchier sp. (service-berry)
  • Cercis canadensis (eastern red bud)
  • Crataegus sp. (hawthorn)
  • Prunus ‘Accolade’ (flowering cherry)
  • Prunus virginiana ‘Canada Red’ (Canada Red chokecherry)
  • Syringa reticulata (Japanese tree lilac)
Larger trees are planted where utility wires are not present and are selected based on amount of space available as well as aesthetics. These larger trees include:
  • Cercidiphyllum japonicum (Katsura tree)
  • Gingko biloba (gingko)
  • Gleditsia triacanthos var. inermis (honey locust)
  • Metasequoia glyptostroboides (Dawn redwood)
  • Platanus x acerifolia (London planetree)
  • Pyrus calleryana (flowering pear)
  • Tilia cordata (little-leaf linden)
  • Tilia x euchlora (Crimean linden)
  • Ulmus x sp. (elm hybrids)
  • Zelkova serrata (Japanese zelkova)
Schenectady has an abundance of maples (silver and Norway, in particular) so we try to minimize maple planting. Green and white ashes have excellent survival rates; however, with the expected arrival of the emerald ash borer, ReTree Schenectady is limiting ash plantings.

Tree Maintenance
Bare-root trees have many advantages (i.e., low cost, wider range of available species, ease in planting) but one major short-term disadvantage. They are susceptible to drought. Short-term maintenance activities therefore involve providing a gator to each “tree owner” to ensure that trees are watered sufficiently in their first season (and, in some cases, their second season) after planting, training owners on use of the gator, and checking up on tree status through the season to ensure that watering is occurring. Gators are sturdy nylon bags that are placed around the base of the tree, filled with water. They supply 20 gallons of water per tree over a several hour period, thereby ensuring deep infiltration.

Planting and watering through the first season are only the first steps towards ensuring longevity of the urban forest. Maintenance is an ongoing obligation that requires a well-defined plan for long-term success. Long-term maintenance primarily involves pruning. The bare-root trees are relatively small and require “limbing up” or “raising” of the branches and, in some cases, training (e.g., selection of main leader, thinning) within 3-5 years of planting. ReTree Schenectady volunteers visit each tree within three years of planting to assess the need for pruning, and to implement pruning, if required.

ReTree Schenectady relies on technical advice on tree planting and maintenance from the local Cornell Cooperative Extension agent, the Urban Horticulture Institute at Cornell University (where bare-root tree planting in urban environments was developed and refined), and the local urban forester from New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.