By Deb Everts

Thanks to the Natural Resources class at Ellicottville’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) Center, the Nannen Arboretum in Ellicottville is getting a good clean up and a fresh start for the spring and summer season. 

Instructor Dave Swaciak said his students in the junior class went to the arboretum behind Ellicottville’s town center May 8 to work on cleaning up the tree damage from the last two years. He planned to take the class back this week on Wednesday and Thursday to finish the job, weather permitting.

“I guess what happened is they had winter tree damage from the previous year, then a tree care company came and removed some of the limbs and left them there,” he said. “So, we took care of the debris that was left there. We also did more pruning and helped with tree planting.”

Using a wood chipper with a dump truck, climbing gear with ropes and harnesses, shovels, rakes and a chainsaw, the whole class of 16 students participated, including two girls. The students come from Cattaraugus-Little Valley, Springville-Griffith and Franklinville high schools.

“About half of my class is afraid of heights, but we need ground workers as well,” Swaciak said. “One of my best ground workers doesn’t like heights, but he knows all of his knots, and he’s very safe. He knows what to look for when the climber is up in the tree to help keep the climber safe. So, everybody has a job, even if they are afraid of heights.”

The students are using what they’ve learned in class and are applying the techniques to a real-life experience. Swaciak said they learned about tree climbing and the use of harnesses in October and November, then went over pruning in February. During March, they learned how to use a chainsaw and, in April, they studied tree planting and soil testing. 

“So, this is kind of a culmination of a lot of the things they learned this year, and a nice final project for the year,” he said. 

Swaciak said this class activity is a type of internship for the students because it’s off the premises and there are more requirements off campus. He said because they’re in the public eye, they have to be presentable. 

“One of the things I talk to the students about, especially when operating the wood chipper at the gate, is to be mindful of visitors who might be coming to the town center or the arboretum,” he said. “The visitors come first and that’s something we don’t get when we’re working here at the CTE center. We don’t have the public coming and going, so that’s why it’s a good experience for them to get out and realize that they have to be presentable, they have to use good language and act professionally.” 

According to Swaciak, about half of his students go on to college for environmental sciences or forestry-related majors. Then, every year, he has a few students that go directly into tree work in arboriculture. He said there are a lot of jobs available in tree climbing. The student can graduate and go right to work. 

“You can get a job in arboriculture without being certified, but you can also work towards a certification,” he said. “Some of my students have graduated and done that. Having a BOCES diploma looks good on their resume.”

The CTE center at Ellicottville is located at 5550 Route 242. For more information about the career and technical education programs offered by the Ellicottville, Olean and Belmont centers, visit online at