Two Onondaga Earth Corps employees stared at a map of trees, shrubs and plants.

Moving from right to left, they matched the potted plants with where they’d be planted on a hillside near the Onondaga Creekwalk across from Kirk Park.

Six volunteers, including four SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry students, waited as the corps members laid out the plants.

For the next five hours, a group of about 15 people dug holes in the hillside and filled them with plants. Then they mulched the hillside.

Onondaga Earth Corps Executive Director Greg Michel described the effort as a “restoration plant.” Over the last two years, an 8-foot high chainlink fence was removed near this stretch of the Creekwalk. Invasive plants growing on and around the fence were removed. It had blocked residents’ view of the Creekwalk and of Kirk Park.

Now, OEC is replacing those invasive plants and residents can see the park from the Creekwalk.

“We’re putting in native trees to improve ecology but also getting community input,” Michel said. “People like the new visibility they have along the Creekwalk.”

In recent years, the city has put in place its Urban Forest Master Plan and taken steps to improve the Creekwalk.

The master plan lays out a goal for Syracuse to improve its tree canopy by about 7%. Michel said the city needs to plant about 3,000 trees each year to hit that goal.

OEC will be a big part of that: The organization is tasked with planting more than half of the trees planted in the city each year. Last year, the group planted 1,471 trees.

Onondaga Earth Corps is a nonprofit that often hires youth to plant trees and improve green spaces. Beautifying the Creekwalk is among its key projects. It also has a multiyear project to remove buckthorn, an invasive plant, from Schiller Park. So far, OEC has removed several acres. OEC will replace Buckthorn with native plants.

In all, OEC plans to plant 1,500 trees in Schiller Park and along the Creekwalk and will supplement that with another 430 trees along city streets and in parks.

Saturday’s planting at Kirk Park included few trees. Restoration projects often include more shrubs and low-growing plants.

The planting builds on previous work from the Onondaga Creek Revitalization Plan and contributes to the goals in the Urban Forest Master Plan. It was funded as part of an ecological enhancement project through through the Onondaga Lake Natural Resource Damage Assessment Restoration.

On a walking tour before the event, residents told the city and OEC they liked the new view from the Creekwalk across Kirk Park after the fence came down.

A landscape architect hired by the city picked out low-growing native plants, shrubs and trees to preserve their view.

“We wanted to preserve these view sheds,” Michel said as he pointed from the Creekwalk to Kirk Park.

OEC Planting Schedule

October 15

Syracuse Urban Food Forest Community Planting, at Bellevue and Midland avenues in Syracuse, from 9:30 a.m. through 1 p.m.

October 22

Onondaga Lake Community Planting, at Onondaga Lake Park, 106 Lake Drive, Liverpool, from 10 a.m. through 1 p.m.

November 5

Schiller Park Community Tree Planting, at Schiller Park, 1100 Rugby Road, Syracuse

Onondaga Earth Corp holds its annual fundraiser on Oct. 29 from 5:30 – 9:30 p.m. at the Rosamond Gifford Zoo. More information can be found here.

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Chris Libonati covers government, accountability and equity. Have a tip? Contact Chris at 585-290-0718 or