The New York State Departments of Environmental Conservation, Parks, Agriculture and Markets, and the State Arbor Day Committee, joined state and local officials today for an Arbor Day tree planting event at Albany's Tivoli Lake Preserve.
It was a blustery spring day - Governor Andrew Cuomo Proclaimed Friday State Arbor Day as part of an Earth Week tribute to New York’s commitment and accomplishments to protecting the environment, conserving open space, increasing access to the state’s vast natural resources, implementing clean energy initiatives and preparing for the effects of climate change.
At the event, DEC awarded the City of Albany $250,000 from the Environmental Protection Fund for park improvements at Tivoli Lake Preserve. Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan: "This preserve is an urban oasis. It is a remarkable place. It's unlike any park, because it is really a preserve. It is a place that is intended to stay as natural as it possibly can so that our residents from the surrounding communities and really from around the Capital Region can come and see this unique environment here in the city of Albany."
The preserve is the second largest urban nature park in all of New York State, second only to Central Park in New York City. The 2015 Arbor Day tree planting is in memory of Brother Yusuf Burgess, a long-time advocate for introducing children to the joys of being outdoors and learning about nature.
At the time of his death in December 2014, Brother Yusuf (often quoted as saying 'no child should be left inside') was the leader of the Department of Environmental Conservation’s Capital District Campership Diversity Program. DEC Commissioner Joe Martens: "He was a role model. He was the perfect person for DEC to have to promote an urban agenda in connecting young urban kids with the outdoors."
His widow, Cherrie, addressed the gathering during a brief sprinkling of snow: "Brother Yusef was born in Brooklyn, New York, at the Marcy Projects. There was not a lot of greenery around the Marcy Projects, so my husband would escape to prospect park. And there was a tree there that he would climb in just to lose himself from the world. "
The group planted a tree in his honor. Many onlookers, including 108th District Assemblyman John McDonald, braved the wind and cold to toss tiny pieces of paper with "messages" to Brother Yusuf inscribed on them into the hole as others shoveled dirt to complete the planting.
"What a beautiful day! It may be cold on the outside but it's warm on the inside. And the memories of Brother Yusef are all individual and shared and what a great way to celebrate his life by planting a new life with this tree," exclaimed McDonald.
Brother Yusuf’s motto was, “Using the power of nature to transform urban youth.” His legacy continues in the lives of the young men and women he inspired to continue their education, contribute to their community and connect with the natural world.