Tonawanda News

May 15, 2014

City updates tree planting

By Jessica Bagley
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — City of Tonawanda Mayor Rick Davis has issued a moratorium on the removal of hundreds of decaying trees following a city-wide project that assessed their condition.

As part of the project, which was funded by a state grant, five arborists completed a city-wide inventory that charted the location and state of the city’s 6,000 trees. The arborists identified more than 400 trees that need to be removed and characterized them into different groups based on their condition. 

Most of the city’s 100 priority one trees, which were the most heavily damaged and posed the greatest danger to residents, have already been removed. The stumps are still in place and will also be removed, but the process could take months because the city’s chipper is not working.

“These were the trees that we couldn’t figure out what was holding them up,” arborist John Ruch, a resident who led the project, said. “Life and limb was in danger ... there was one at St. Francis that kids walked under everyday.” 

Many of the trees were damaged in the October 2006 storm and others’ roots were harmed during sidewalk replacement projects. The emerald ash borer, an invasive beetle, has infested many trees, as well, and some had simply reached their life expectancy.  

Although some residents were upset about the tree removal, Ruch stressed that those that fell in the priority one category “should have been taken out yesterday.”

“We’re thinking about the safety of the residents,” he said. “An urban tree is not a forest tree. If it’s leaning, you cut it down, and you don’t take the chance of someone dying.”

The priority two trees are also hazardous, Ruch said, but not as dangerous, while the priority three trees are projected to become hazardous in the next few years.

“While I have confidence in the process that was used, I decided to issue a moratorium on the priority two and three trees that are slated for removal to make sure the city is doing everything we can to possibly save those trees,” Davis said in a press release issued earlier this month.

After ordering the stoppage, Davis invited Ruch to a city meeting to explain the project to the council and elaborate on the state of the trees in categories two and three.

“They can wait, but they’ve got to come down,” he said at the meeting last week. “I know some people were upset about removing the (priority three trees) and I don’t blame them, it’s a hard thing.”

The city doesn’t have the resources to remove the trees in those categories immediately, and in time, they will deteriorate more, Ruch said.

Council President Carleton Zeisz also added that the city normally removes 100 trees per year, and the removal of the 400 damaged trees only makes up about 7 percent of all the city’s trees.

City officials were hoping to plant more trees this spring to replaced the removed ones, but the plantings have been delayed until the fall due to a shortage of saplings at area nurseries.

“That delay is unfortunate; however, it does allow us to apply for a partial reimbursement for the trees we plant through National Grid. Hopefully we can get a little more bang for our buck,” Davis said.

Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000 ext. 4150, or follow her on Twitter @JessicaLBagley.