HUDSON — The Conservation Advisory Council received a $20,000 Urban Forestry Grant from the state Department of Environmental Conservation for a tree inventory and management plan.
Advocates are hoping for more grants for tree maintenance and planting.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation awarded a total of $1.4 million to 38 municipalities in 20 counties in the state. The grants ranged from $12,800 to $75,000 each. The Hudson tree inventory will document most park trees and all street trees by professional foresters, Hudson Conservation Advisory Council member Hilary Hillman said.
The trees’ health, environment and species will be included in a database. In Oakdale Park and Charles William Park, the documentation will only include trees within 15 feet of a trail of recreation area, Hillman said. The Promenade Hill Park trees will also not be included in the tree inventory because the Downtown Revitalization Initiative project already includes a tree inventory and evaluation of the space.
The plan will be for the management and maintenance of the trees in the city over the next five years, Hillman said. Once the existing trees are accounted for, a plan to plant more trees can be made.
“Our tree canopy belongs to every resident in the city,” Hillman said in a statement. “It provides each of us cleaner air, cools down our streets and buildings in the summer, drinks up stormwater, keeps our topsoil from eroding, and invites nature into our lives. Once we have an inventory and a management plan we will be able to chart the care for the trees we have and better plan for future planting of native species trees to expand our urban forest while enhancing the livability of the city for all.”
Hillman coordinated the application for the grant, according to the city website.
Now she is furthering tree conservation efforts by advocating for the city to have a tree ordinance and tree committee in order to qualify for more funding for tree maintenance and planting.
She opened the conversation with the Legal Committee at their Dec. 23 meeting.
“We realized that if we want to have an ordinance, there has to be some kind of enforcement,” she said at the meeting.
The Urban Forestry Grant only pertains to public trees, so nothing would need to be enforced as a result of the grant, city attorney Jeffrey Baker said in response. Enforcement would typically be in regard to people cutting trees on private property. But other municipalities have penalties for those who destroy public trees, Hillman said in a statement.
“Other municipalities have penalties imposed on those who purposefully destroy thriving trees in the public realm, the penalties may be financial, or require same-size replacement trees to be planted, or require the planting of multiple smaller trees in various areas to make up for the loss,” she said.
The advisory committee does not know if penalties would be appropriate for Hudson, Hillman said. But a tree board could function to advise residents.
Cities granted the Tree City USA title from the Arbor Day Foundation are eligible for more grants for tree planting and maintenance, such as from the Department of Environmental Conservation, Hillman said. In order to qualify, cities need a tree board or department, a tree-care ordinance, a community forestry program with an annual budget of at least $2 per capita and an Arbor Day observance and proclamation.
Becoming a Tree City USA may help with urban and community forestry grant applications, but does not guarantee approval, a Department of Environmental Conservation spokesman said. In recent urban and community forestry grant rounds, Tree City USA municipalities received extra points in scoring.
“DEC grant projects require partnerships, outreach, education and long support of the project,” the spokesman said. “DEC has found that strong urban forestry programs have these components.”
A maintenance grant could help clear out dead trees in Hudson’s cemetery so new trees can be planted, Hillman said. While the trees could fall at any time, the risk of them injuring a person or property is low. But they should be removed and a planting plan should follow, she said.
The city seems to have general issues getting people to join committees, Baker said at the meeting. Stipends aren’t provided to members, which other cities provide to committee members.
While 1st Ward Alderwoman Rebecca Wolff cares a lot about trees, there are other non-existing committees that would precede a tree committee, Wolff said. She suggested a subcommittee on the Conservation Advisory Council.
The Conservation Advisory Council has a broader mission that incorporates sustainability and larger issues like climate change and migration, Hillman said.
“In general, CAC (Conservation Advisory Committee) concerns range from water source protection, air quality, green space, stormwater control, global warming and planning for potential changes in our geology and geography to the health of the tree canopy, just to name a few,” Hillman said in a statement.
Fourth Ward Alderman John Rosenthal asked if it is a best practice for municipalities to have a stand-alone tree board and Hillman said yes.
He asked for examples and she said the cities are larger with a bigger tax base, including Saratoga Springs, Kingston and New Paltz.
“Let’s just start by getting people to respect the trees that are in front of their houses,” Hillman said.
The council would prefer people care than for there to be a penalty for mistreating trees, she said.
The Conservation Advisory Council has no enforcement or legislative power, Hillman said in a statement.
“It seems that everything done in this town is done by the same group of people,” she said at the meeting, adding she hopes more people get involved with conservation efforts.
The possibility of a Tree Committee and potential penalties for mistreatment of trees were left to further discussion, Baker said.
“We need to just share our information and what we’re thinking with more people and I don’t know what’s going to happen next exactly,” Hillman said of a potential tree committee. “I don’t think it’s off the table, just this discussion has begun.”