Shade Tree Notes Blog

By John Wickes, President

More than 330 people joined us at the 2023 NYSA Annual Conference this year in Suffern, NY. I want to share more broadly some of the remarks I shared as part of the Annual Association Report given typically given by the president. As we launch our new Shade Tree Notes blog, we thought this would be the best place to do so.

We started our Annual Conference with a new theme, “Growing Together Through Collaboration,” and we have been doing just that. Our leaders, speakers, staff and so many of you, connected with one another, even before the conference to make the event a successful one. Many of our speakers, including our keynote, Phillip Van Wassenaer, came to us from collaborative relationships, formed over years, and even decades.

Thank you, to our Board of Directors and Governors for planning an excellent meeting. A special thank you to our conference chair, Wayne Cahilly and co-chair, Fran Reidy for their efforts in securing speakers for both the Fall and Winter conferences this past year. Our list of speakers read like a veritable who’s who of the arboricultural world.

I would like to extend our gratitude to our speakers for joining us and providing excellent educational sessions. Speaking of collaboration, many of them worked together to make sure their content complemented one another, to serve our members best in each and every presentation.

I want to recognize a special group of people who helped make this a great association, and are still supporting our efforts today. Past presidents who were with us in Suffern included Lori Brockelbank, Joel Greifenberger, Gary Carbocci, and Jon Hickey, Sr. We thank them for their commitment to the arboriculture industry and dedication to growing our association.

We also greatly appreciate the support from both our sponsors and vendors in our annual event and their continued dedication to the Association. Thank you!

The association takes pride in recognizing and honoring arboriculture professionals who served the industry and dedicated their lives to our industry. Just after last year’s Annual Conference, we lost Rich Almstead, Jr. Please remember the Almstead family in your thoughts and prayers.

The Association had another successful year. On the membership front, we had 736 members. I want to thank everyone who renewed your membership and to our new members. We couldn’t run the Association without you. If you’re not a member, consider joining today. We are a stronger organization with your membership. One of the signs of strength are new members, and first timers.

On the education front, our fall conference was moved to the DoubleTree Hotel in East Syracuse. We were able to get back to pre-pandemic numbers for that event. The speakers did an excellent job, and we had many great conversations about the future of NYSA.

We offered TRAQ and TRAQ Renewal Programs both in Syracuse and Oyster Bay. We have typically hosted these in May and November. We’ll be looking to schedule another round this year. Let us know if you are interested in this training. If you know and have at least 5 people in your company or area who are eager to do this, we can set up a session.

We held an ISA exam at this conference and assisted others in scheduling exams throughout the year— ten individuals signed up for the paper exam held yesterday, and another 22 signed up for an exam in the Bronx earlier this month.

We will be looking to schedule additional training opportunities during the year. Already, we are talking about a workshop to be held this summer at Drave’s Arboretum with the help of Bill Snyder. Again, if you know at least 5 people in your company or area who are eager for a particular kind of training, we will be glad to set up a session.

NYSA remains a member of the Arbor Day Committee and will participate again in the Arbor Day Celebration in Albany. Our Arbor Day Project in Buffalo was spearheaded this year by Jared Webber with the Buffalo Olmstead Conservancy. We continue to seek ways to work with volunteers in the Buffalo area. I’d like to welcome Mike Sawyer from the Conservancy and thank them for their continued support. In addition, we are working with the NYSDEC for a day of service to be held in this spring. 

We are also planning to host the Tree Climbing Championship again on June 24. This year, we will be in Washington Park in the City of Albany. If you have never attended or volunteered, I encourage you to experience it. We are forming subcommittees already for set up, judging, and other duties.

The Association was again represented at the great New York State Fair. Under Jim Maloney’s guidance, we showcased our amazing booth, distributed a ton of brochures and answered a lot of questions from fair-goers. The booth is a great promotional vehicle for our industry, and I urge everyone to volunteer. Again, thank you to Jim and all the volunteers for donating your time and expertise. In addition, I want to thank Jim and Art Brooks for continuing to champion the Brian’s Books free library that is displayed at all of our conferences.

We continue to support the Tree Fund Auction and the Tour des Trees as a Bronze sponsor and look to continue our support this year. I want to thank everyone who rode and/or contributed to our riders. Your support helped raise valuable funds for the Tree Fund. The funds raised support research and education throughout the world. Feel free to talk to Lori Brockelbank if you would like to learn more about all the great work the Tree Fund has accomplished. 

The Board continues to work through its five-year strategic plan, setting goals and building teams to address them.

One of our goals is the creation of committees and task forces to achieve these objectives. We are always looking for more involvement from members. We are especially focused on support for our Communications, Continuing Education, and Membership Outreach. We have identified these committees, specifically, as areas in which we need your help. If you, or someone you know, are interested in volunteering, please reach out to our Board members or ADG headquarters and let us know.

During the initial pandemic crisis, we hosted online conferences and webinars, which were very successful, financially. However, they lacked the face-to-face networking, and comradery of our in-person events. Given our strong financial position and reserves, the Board made a strategic decision and investment to hold in-person events, knowing full well, they might not make money. Many other organizations chose, and still choose to remain remote-only.

Our effort represented our commitment to return to some sense of normalcy, and an investment in the future. We did this with our TRAQ workshops as well. We held our first Tree Climbing Championship in three years. After a year of doing this, thanks to the astute financial insights of our Treasurer, Rich Nelson, and the Board, we realized that many of these events, while psychologically successful, were just not sustainable, given current financial conditions.

So, our Board, your Board, had to shift gears, again. Adjustments to the budget and events have been made, and some goals, like hiring a lobbyist for arborist recognition, and crane licensing, have had to be re-examined, and tabled, for the time being. Our strategic plan is a living document. It continues to live and change, as market and social conditions vary. The Board continues to adjust our committees, task forces, goals, and objectives accordingly, and I want to thank all those who have contributed to this process.

This year is unusual in that we have no immediate elections to the Board or bylaws changes for vote. Last fall, we did pass a measure to update our certificate with the State of New York. This confirms our status as a 501(c)6. This designation did not exist when our organization was first incorporated. It also affirms our ability to engage in advocacy efforts on behalf of the arboriculture industry in New York.

I would also like to recognize our partners at ADG. We are extremely fortunate to have Michael Thompson, Claire Hart, Mike Borges, Kathy Van De Loo, Liz Coleman, and Julianne Okun. We simply could not do all of this without their help.

Thank you all again, for being a part of this great organization. Feel free to reach out and let us know how we can best support you. And we hope you will step forward as well and find a place to serve the organization and support others.