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Infested trees to be cut down in Athens

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    A honey locust tree in front of Michael Black’s home in Athens before it was cut down.
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    The stump of a honey locust tree in front of Michael Black’s home in Athens.
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    Michael Black, of Athens, discusses his concerns about the way a tree was trimmed in front of his Second Street property with the village board.
October 10, 2018 10:03 pm

ATHENS — Several village trees infested with the destructive emerald ash borer will be cut down and removed to prevent the spread of the pest, members of the Friends of Athens said.

The Athens Village Tree Committee is ready to begin planting new trees with help from an anonymous $5,000 donation after a survey discovered some trees had to be cut down.

A survey of trees on village-owned property, completed in June by Integral Tree and Landscape of Stanfordville, determined 11 trees have to be cut down, said Catherine Censor, a member of the Friends of Athens.

“The Friends of Athens paid for the arborist to come and look,” Censor said. “One of the members of the Friends of Athens was able to take the findings and turn it into an interactive GPS map.”

Some of the surveyed ash trees were infested with the emerald ash borer or jewel beetle whose larvae feed on the inner bark of ash trees — disrupting the tree’s ability to transport water and nutrients.

The arborist told the tree committee the number of trees to be cut down is low, Village Trustee Stephan Bradicich said.

“It’s killing the trees,” Bradicich said. “He recommends removing them to prevent further spread. There were a number of them that were expected [to be cut down.]”

The downing of trees began last week and was extending into this week, Bradicich said.

Censor hopes the planting of new trees can begin in the spring and the tree committee will seek additional grants to pay for the trees to be professionally planted, she said. The Tree Committee is spearheading this effort.

“It could be as many as 51 trees, but that’s a goal,” she said. “It’s going to form a really solid foundation going forward.”

The arborist and members of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Columbia and Greene counties will have a say on the planting of trees. The new trees can’t be planted over a cut-down tree because the stump has a network of roots below ground, Censor said.

“We are certainly trying to put trees on South Franklin Street where there are holes,” Censor said.

Trees won’t be planted near residents’ homes who don’t want them, she added.

“Not everyone wants a tree planted,” Censor said. “We intend to work closely with homeowners to plant trees where they’re welcome.”

Tree-cutting reviewed

Michael Black, of Athens, shared his concerns at a Sept. 26 village board meeting about the way a honey locust tree was trimmed in front of his Second Street property. The arborist determined the tree was cut improperly, Black said Wednesday.

“A gentler approach could have saved part of the tree at least,” Black said. “I have many decades of experience with trees and tree culture.”

The tree committee and Mayor Peter Alberti reviewed the way the tree was cut.

The arborist determined it was the proper way and he showed village Public Works Department Superintendent Anthony Proper how to do it, Alberti said.

“This is the proper way to trim it — end of story,” Alberti said. “I’m not here to argue with you tonight because if you keep arguing with me, we’re done.”

Black disagreed and showed a picture of the tree cut down. A projecting stump makes a tree more susceptible to rotting, Black said.

“If it’s cut too close to the limb, when it grows out, it has a hard time healing over,” Black said.

The village board has been proactive about the trees since neighbors expressed anger over a historic oak tree on South Franklin Street that was cut down June 14, 2017, Alberti said.

“This board has been very nice for the past year and a half with trees,” Alberti said. “My temperament is beyond belief. Keep in mind, this board did not want this the way it went — the public did.”

Black was shocked by what he believed was aggressive behavior on Alberti’s part.

“I tried to be polite and respectful,” Black said. “I was stunned by it — I didn’t know what to say or how to respond.”

Aftermath

The arborist advised the village board and Proper not to cut inside a tree’s root collar because it’s better for the tree’s health, Bradicich said, adding Black’s point was valid.

“When you’re doing a lot of trees, you want to err towards leaving a few inches of branch remaining because it’s healthier for the tree,” Bradicich said. “I know what Anthony did was in keeping with the directions the arborist gave.”

Not every resident will be happy with trees coming down, Bradicich said Monday.

“It makes sense to do it in an intelligent way,” he said. “People care a lot about it. It speaks to their property values.”

The village board has used the survey as a road map of what trees can be cut down, Black said, adding the village has an anti-tree bias.

“They seized on it as an excuse to remove trees,” he said. “This is the largest tree removal program I have seen.”

Black plans to bring up the issue of tree-trimming again with village trustees but on a more face-to-face basis.

“One hopes for a more enlightened approach, but I’m not seeing that amongst a larger group of people,” Black said.

Alberti did not return multiple calls for comment. To reach reporter Daniel Zuckerman email dzuckerman@thedailymail.net or follow him on Twitter @DZuckerman_CGM.