Dear Neighbor,

The city is coming back to life. Do you ever look around at the nature within New York and wonder how to be even more at one with it? This week, Epicenter-NYC spoke with Stephanie Foo, one of NYC Parks Departments Super Stewards.

What is a Super Steward you ask? 

Super Stewards are people who receive special training from the Parks Department and go on to work independently caring for neighborhood parks and spreading the word about the benefits of nature in the city. There are several types of Super Stewards: Care Captains, who take care of street trees (more on these amazing plants later); NAVigators, who care for the city’s forests and meadows; Shorekeepers, who help with wetlands; and Trail Maintainers, who — you guessed it — maintain the city’s trails. All of these duties are carried out by volunteers.

Foo, who is originally from the Bay Area in California, became a Super Steward because she missed the greenery of the West Coast.

“I wanted to connect more intimately with nature and it feels so much better,” she said. “I feel more in tune with the seasons, I feel more at home.”

Foo’s speciality and favorite part of the job? Removal of invasive species. “It’s really fun, you can see a young tree that is really struggling, and you can just go in, and in like 10 or 15 minutes, you can cut away all of these horrible vines that are choking the tree and killing the tree,” she said. “You save a tree’s life! It’s as good as planting the tree, even better, quite frankly. It feels really good to be able to go out there in the morning and do that and make it a better place for all of us to live.”

The city’s trees, particularly the often-overlooked street trees, serve an important purpose.They help process rain and water runoff, preventing sewage and other undesirable elements from entering our water supply, clean the air and help regulate the temperature — apartments on a shady street will naturally be several degrees cooler during summer months.

Photo courtesy of Stephanie Foo

“A single street tree can help save the city thousands of dollars per year in all the hard work that it does,” Foo said.

You can learn more about the trees on your street and what they do with this in-depth NYC Street Tree Map.

You don’t need any special skills, beyond an appreciation for nature, to become a Super Steward; NYC Parks will provide you with everything you need (hat included!).

“It really works around you and what you’re good at,” Foo said. “If you really want to get on your knees and pull weeds, you can do that. If your thing is you want to walk around and take notes of problem areas, you can do that. You can be 80 years old and be a Super Steward because you’re getting the neighborhood kids all into trees or picking up trash.”

To become a Super Steward, get started by attending one of the Parks Department’s events. You can also email with questions.

Photo by drown_in_city on Unsplash 

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