“It makes more sense to reutilize our trees for projects like this rather than opening a catalog and picking out a bench.”
Syracuse City Arborist Stephen Harris believes that City Woods owner Cosmo Fanizzi’s ideas will transform city parks into sustainable and successful sites. As I promised yesterday, here’s a look into Fanizzi’s latest development with Lower Onondaga Park.
With the help of Harris and City Parks Commissioner Glen Lewis, Fanizzi wants to repurpose several species including a giant white oak to make new park benches and eventually build playground equipment. The project is similar to the new Prospect Park in Brooklyn where trees knocked down by Hurricane Sandy form a new play area for kids.
Fanizzi is currently talking with QPK Design and the parks commission on a master plan to jumpstart the project. He plans on using local wood including white oak and black locust that will stand up to insects, moisture and fungus.
While Fanizzi has been milling and designing woodwork for various Syracuse sites, restaurants and studios, this park development will be a major project for him. He’s had the idea in mind for several years.
“Kids really prefer the natural design to the conventional play ground equipment,” he says. “When the big tree fell in Thornden Park, kids started playing on it until the contractors took it up.”
Historically, that tree, a 200-year-old beech, is incredibly important to the University Neighborhood area. It was brought over to the United States from Germany as a sapling by Major Alexander Davis. To these kids, the fallen tree was just an excuse for exploration. If children like these latch onto naturally designed spaces to play this easily, imagine what could happen with the project in Lower Onondaga Park.
Harris estimates that 600 local trees are taken down each year, and some of them can be reutilized by Fanizzi and other woodworkers. Though Fanizzi only gets about six of those trees, this small amount is used in innovative and long-lasting ways.
“We underutilize what we take down,” he said. “That’s the part that matters to me. And until I met Cosmo, I never really thought we could do more than we’re doing.”
Most of the trees taken down by the city aren’t ideal for repurposing into furniture or flooring. The average size tree removed is around 23 in., according to Harris. Many are Norway maples, silver maples, honeylocust and valcova trees – too small for Fanizzi’s work.
“These are typically seen as junk trees that can’t be milled,” he said. “But wood is always of interest to people.”
Fanizzi is collecting the good wood left in town and putting it back into our dining rooms, local theaters and now parks, where it truly belongs.