Ossining Receives NYS Environmental Conservation Funding

The planting of a young tree to celebrate Arbor Day 2019 at Louis Engel Waterfront Park. (left to right) Madeline Johl, formerly of Assemblywoman Sandy Galef, Green Ossining member and Cornell Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Donna Sharrett, Town Supervisor Dana Levenberg, Deputy Supervisor Jackie Shaw, and Councilmember Liz Feldman at Louis Engel Waterfront Park.

One of only five Westchester communities selected.

On December 18, 2020, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation announced the 38 projects awarded a combined $1.4 million of funding for tree inventories, education, plantings, maintenance, and management plans. Out of 154 applications, only five communities in Westchester County were chosen, among them the Village and Town of Ossining, with a total combined award of $71,750.

The Village of Ossining will embark on a tree-planting project in historic Downtown Ossining at Nelson Park and Nelson Sitting Park, the two largest green spaces in the Village and the most frequently used recreation areas. Both parks have seen deforestation through the years as trees damaged by weather and disease have not been replaced, bordered by major roadways and heavy traffic. Without many shady spots to rest, the parks have become less inviting to neighborhood families. Beginning in the spring of 2021, using $38,000 in NYSDEC funds and an in-kind match of staff hours, a “tree plan” inclusive of native tree species will be created by a certified arborist. The Village’s Parks Department will then be instructed in the specific care necessary for each species before planting. The neighborhood surrounding both parks is densely populated and largely urban. A re-established tree canopy will help reduce the “heat island” effect, screen the park from surrounding dense development and traffic, and provide a heightened quality of life for neighborhood residents.

Park Early Childhood Center student participating in social distant educational activity at Nelson Sitting Park.

“The Village of Ossining is on track for a great revival, which in large part will be based on our continued path towards a greener, more environmentally-focused community,” said Mayor Rika Levin. “In this pandemic we continue to witness the importance of open space, especially our parks, in the lives of all members of our community. I look forward to seeing these busy parks filled with trees again so that Ossining families and seniors can truly enjoy the natural environment right in their own backyard. I am grateful for our participation with the Cornell Cooperative. The added learning opportunities for students and their families about the importance of trees to our ecosystem, as well as to our collective emotional and physical health, is a huge bonus.”

The Town of Ossining received $33,750 in grant funding to support tree maintenance at Louis Engel Park and Ryder Park. In 2017 and 2018, the Town of Ossining received a total of $64,000 in grant funding from the Urban and Community Forestry Program to support a phased, town-wide tree inventory. The inventory identified priority maintenance activities in Louis Engel and Ryder Parks, which will be completed with this latest grant award. The Town plans on utilizing a competitively bid, local contractor to complete the tree maintenance activities. Louis Engel and Ryder Parks are two of the Town of Ossining’s most heavily utilized parks, and properly caring for these environmental assets will benefit the thousands of park visitors annually.

“We are so grateful to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation for their continued partnership,” said Supervisor Dana Levenberg. “The funding the Town has applied for and received through this program has been instrumental in establishing a comprehensive and effective tree maintenance and care program throughout our parks, roadways, and other public spaces.”

Both Village and Town projects will include educational components. In the Village of Ossining, the project is particularly special as it includes several environmental education opportunities thanks to community partners. Park Early Childhood Center, which is directly adjacent to Nelson Sitting Park, will organize and conduct two activities for students, the first as part of their “changing seasons” curriculum. The other is a tree-planting event to help students and their families take ownership of the new trees. The Village’s Environmental Advisory Committee will design and install informational signage alongside select native trees to help community members understand and appreciate trees’ valuable role in the local ecosystem. Finally, Green Ossining will host a tree planting presentation, hosted by Green Ossining member and Cornell Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Donna Sharrett, during which participants will learn about the care and keeping of trees.

To complement the tree maintenance project in Louis Engel and Ryder Parks, the Town will also partner with Green Ossining to organize a volunteer tree planting and care effort in Ryder Park and Louis Engel Park. This effort will also be led by Ms. Sharrett, who has a wealth of knowledge in tree care and maintenance. During the past grant-funded projects, Ms. Sharrett provided community presentations on tree care for residents, which are available on the Town’s website. The Town is also embarking on a parks stewardship program in 2021, with an initial focus on vine and invasive species management at Ryder Park, another great complement to this grant-funded project. The Town of Ossining has been recognized as a Tree City by the Arbor Day Foundation for over 20 years and will continue its efforts to recognize Arbor Day with an annual tree planting as part of this project.

The Ossining community has long been viewed as a leader in climate change mitigation and as an early adopter of green technology. Over the past decade, the Village and Town have participated in a transition to LED streetlights, have joined Westchester Power’s Community Choice Aggregation program to bring 100% green energy supply to homeowners, and have invested in electric vehicles and charging infrastructure. The generous funding from the DEC’s Urban Forestry Grant will help both the Village and the Town continue improving the quality of life for residents while helping the environment recover from the effects of global warming and pollution.

“Trees play an important role in the health and welfare of every community, and as we work towards reducing Ossining’s carbon footprint, it should be noted that trees also offer carbon sequestration benefits,” said Green Ossining Chairperson and co-founder, Suzie Ross. “Both the Village and Town of Ossining continue to demonstrate that they value our natural environment by prioritizing conservation efforts such as this, and I am thrilled that New York State saw fit to encourage Ossining’s efforts by extending funding for more trees in our parks, coupled with programming that bolsters our residents’ knowledge of the beautiful environment around them. We are laying important environmental groundwork here in Ossining, and these recognitions by the DEC are even further incentive to keep going.”

Caption: The planting of a young tree to celebrate Arbor Day 2019 at Louis Engel Waterfront Park. (left to right) Madeline Johl, formerly of Assemblywoman Sandy Galef, Green Ossining member and Cornell Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Donna Sharrett, Town Supervisor Dana Levenberg, Deputy Supervisor Jackie Shaw, and Councilmember Liz Feldman at Louis Engel Waterfront Park.

Park Early Childhood Center student participating in social distant educational activity at Nelson Sitting Park.

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