Tonawanda News

May 3, 2014

TUCKER: Tree removal questions abound

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The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — If spring would only come, the magnolia tree in the front yard would bloom magnificently. The buds are full and pink, but they need a couple of warm days for their glorious display.

Speaking of spring, Reinstein Woods Nature Preserve in Depew sent a press release about its summer camp program for kids.

If you’ve never been to Reinstein Woods, spring is a beautiful time to visit.

Reinstein Woods is off Como Park Boulevard — talk about a secret location — on Honorine Drive. Here’s a chance to see wildlife, birds and varieties of trees as well as great walking paths and a wonderful education center set on unique 292-acre complex of forests, ponds, and wetlands surrounded by suburban development. Reinstein Woods offers a variety of opportunities to explore and learn about nature for families and people of all ages — and they offer tours of the woods — all free.

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Speaking of the environment, a large crew worked on taking debris from the Erie Canal along Sweeney Street last Saturday. They were able to retrieve an enormous amount of branches, logs, and more — all while it was raining. Kudos to them.

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Be sure to attend the Tonawanda City Council meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday for a clarification on the removal of 500 trees in the city.

Recently I emailed the mayor regarding my own concerns about the tree removal, having just attended a meeting of the New York Forest Owners. The forester/arborist who spoke was concerned when told about Tonawanda’s plan.

The mayor emailed back, saying that last fall the city completed a comprehensive tree inventory of more than 6,000 city trees.

“The study encompassed GPS locating every city tree, annotated the kind of tree, and multiple condition issues and factors of those trees,” Mayor Davis said. “This study was accomplished by five certified state arborists with the lead arborist being a lifelong city resident. ... This really can be recapped with the city being overly optimistic on trying to save trees from the October 2006 Storm, the city’s lack of maintenance schedule, the Emerald Ash Borer, and the life expectancy of many city trees planted at the same time. The findings of this comprehensive study indicated that a little more than 400 trees needed to come down.”

I passed this information to the state forester and a Master Forest Owner, a friend and NYFOA member. Here’s some questions that were suggested.

• Were bids put out for the study and work?

• What valuation process was used?

• Why weren’t the trees taken down to the ground and the stumps ground out, finishing the work?

• What benefit is this program to the city, does taking down trees affect property values?

• Who is gaining income from the logs/limbs and stumps? Silver maples, according to the DEC’s Stumpage Report, are valued from $435 to $925, ash is valued at $150 to $600, average price. What are the downed trees used for: logs, fuel, pulp or chips and who is reaping the benefits?

• Were the trees affected by Emerald Ash Borer reported to the DEC or are ash trees being taken down “in case” they are affected?

Alderman Jenna Koch replied to the possibility of questioning John Ruch, city arborist, as he will be at the meeting. She replied that “according to the Mayor, John Ruch will meet with the Council at 6:15 p.m.” 

Sounds as though there won’t be an open forum, but be sure to attend to give your opinion.

Mayor Davis, of course, did not start this project as it was partly in place when he took office and in his defense, it seems he’s trying his best to make sure the city will benefit in the end.

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Dennis Pasiak, former NT alderman, called about a coming event, and while we were chatting, he praised the efforts of St. Francis of Assisi School in its fight to stay open. Dennis attended Our Lady of Czestochowa School in North Tonawanda and then, for a year, Duffy High School in the Falls. At that time, Bishop Gibbons High School opened and he graduated from there.

“Tuition at Duffy was $70,” Dennis recalled. “Quite a difference from Catholic high schools today.”

The fight’s not over as the parish has sent a letter to the the Holy See asking that the schools which have filed an appeal to the Roman Curia be allowed to continue until the decision is made. By the way, the Roman Curia, according to Wikipedia, is the central governing body through which the pope conducts the business of the entire Catholic Church. (Aren’t you glad you asked?)

An aside, Nancy Holtz, long time third-grade teacher at St. Francis and a committed fighter against the diocese’s ruling, reported that her St. Francis School sign has been “taken down” — actually stolen. She lives off Parker Boulevard in the Town.

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On a much more pleasant note, congratulations are in order for the Historical Society of the Tonawandas which has purchased a new resource center, the former Professional Building at Seymour and Broad streets in Tonawanda. Kudos to all who were part of this wonderful addition to the society.

Contact Community News Editor Barbara Tucker at barbara.tucker@tonawanda-news.com or 693-1000 ext. 4110.