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Ninety-five cyclists biking into north country to honor trees

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Ninety-five cyclists will stop in Watertown and Sackets Harbor this week as part of a 585-mile bike trip around Lake Ontario to raise money for trees.

The cyclists, from all over the United States and Canada, are participating in this year’s Stihl Tour des Trees. They will stop Tuesday at Westcott Beach State Park south of Sackets Harbor and Wednesday at the Jefferson County Historical Society museum, 228 Washington St.

The 2013 tour will showcase upstate New York and Ontario’s scenery, historic trees, urban centers and favorite destinations, according to the tour’s website.

In 2003, the Tour des Trees also went through Watertown, said Michael A. Lumbis, the city’s senior planner who oversees Tree Watertown, the city’s street tree advisory board.

“It’s a big deal that they want to come here as part of the tour,” Mr. Lumbis said. “It’s an opportunity to not only showcase Watertown but also what we’ve done with our urban forest.”

Tour des Trees is a one-week trip that raises money for the TREE (Tree Research and Education Endowment) Fund and promotes the importance of urban trees. The tour started Sunday at Niagara Falls.

The location of the tour changes each year based on where the International Society of Arboriculture convention is held. This year the riders are making their way to Ontario’s Toronto Islands, where the convention will start Saturday.

At 8:15 a.m. Wednesday, the group will plant a tree in the Historical Society’s Victorian garden at the Paddock Mansion. Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham, Mr. Lumbis and museum officials will greet the riders on Washington Street. After the event, the cyclists will head to Cape Vincent and take the ferry to Kingston, Ontario.

Tree plantings and community outreach are hallmarks of every tour. Organizers also provide educational programs for young audiences along the way, including donating a couple of books on trees to the Roswell P. Flower Memorial Library.

With cyclists from all over the U.S., Rome resident Alan G. Howe, pastor of the Rome First United Methodist Church and a member of Team National Grid, is the closest resident to the area who is participating.

“I am riding the Tour des Trees because I have a friend Craig who is a tree guy and we want to ride it together,” he said on the event website. “Trees are a magnificent creation of God and I want to honor and respect the good stewardship of God’s creation.”

Since 1992, the Tour des Trees has generated more than $5.6 million and has funded a variety of research projects and educational programs for budding tree-care professionals.

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