Tell us the story of your favorite tree in Rochester. Where is it and why is important?
This story was produced as part of a larger project for the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism’s 2021 Data Fellowship.
Other stories by Justin Murphy include:
There are about 67,000 publicly owned trees in the city of Rochester, not counting the tens of thousands more on private property within city limits. Each contributes in a small way to cooler and healthier air and a better quality of life for those who live here.
But of course, trees mean more to us than simply the sum of their biological value. Each of us has individual trees that have been meaningful in our lives.
We've planted them and watered them. We've climbed them and lain under them. We've eaten their fruit and raked their leaves.
I think of a pear tree in my grandmother's back yard in Henrietta, and a giant pine tree across the road from the first house I lived in as a child.
Those memories carry strong physical sensations. I can remember the texture of those pears, and the sense of fear giving way to elation as I scaled the pine tree, my hands coated in sap.
They're not just memories, either. Right at this moment, a few cardinals and black-capped chickadees are flitting among the branches of the scraggly crabapple outside my back window, providing some color and vitality to an otherwise snow-covered scene.
At the same time I am surveying the tree canopy in Rochester as a whole, I want to gather some of those personal connections as well. That is the goal behind the Tree Stories map.
All those entries will be used to create an interactive map that, I hope, will show the value of Rochester's trees in a different light.
The first entry comes from the mayor, Malik Evans, who grew up in the South Wedge neighborhood and attended School 12. He described a tree atop the ridge that separates the School 12 property from Highland Park to the south.
"If you go up that hill, there’s a bunch of big trees," he said. "And there’s one tree that’s been there for probably hundreds of years, that when I wanted to get away – and even as a grownup, when my mom died, anything – I’d park my car and go up under that tree."
Evans said he's been finding refuge under that tree since he was 6 years old; now he takes his own young sons underneath it after they're tired out from playing football or baseball behind the school.
"It’s a great getaway spot," Evans said. "Because you can still see what’s going on but you’re away from everything and no one knows you’re there."
What tree in Rochester has brought you solace, or shade, or inspiration? Which one did you plant? Which one did you fall out of and break your arm? Add it to the map and help tell Rochester's tree story.
Contact staff writer Justin Murphy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[This story was originally published by Democrat & Chronicle.]