Oswego To Create Guidelines Regarding Tree Maintenance

OSWEGO, NY – Port City officials plan on setting up a meeting to clearly define who is responsible for Oswego’s trees.

At Monday’s Planning and Development Committee meeting, Councilor Mike Todd asked that the city get together with the Tree Advisory Board and Oswego Tree Stewards to set some definite rules and guidelines as to the duties and responsibilities of each group.

If there is a tree in need of immediate attention, he said, he feels confident that DPW Commissioner Mike Smith and his tree crew should be allowed to take the necessary action without having to wait for an opinion from an advisory board.

“I think a lot of us put a lot of faith into the great job that they do,” he said. “I’d like to look at clearly defining what role that the tree stewards have, the rules, guidelines that they need to follow.”

If a constituent calls with a tree problem, Todd said the city should take care of it quickly.

“That should be the way that we handle a tree situation. I don’t think we need to send it to an advisory board to find out what they think. I think we have to clearly define what (everybody’s) role is. We’ve got too many chiefs and not enough Indians.”

Councilors Dan Donovan and Mike Myers agreed.

“I definitely would like to see a definition of this,” Myers said. “To wait for an advisory board on a tree that might have to come out or tree that may need to stay I think that (the DPW) can make that judgment call. They know their job.”

“I agree. They are the professionals. They are the ones we’ve been going to for years. And, we should continue to go to them,” Donovan added.

Todd said he is in favor of adding more trees around the Port City.

“I think we should concentrate on finding more places to put more trees. The city’s a much better place when we have trees, it looks a lot better,” he said.

But, the only people he should have to go to regarding a tree is Smith and the DPW, he added.

“If the other people are that concerned with it, they are more than welcome to carry petitions in two years and run for office. Then they can make some of these decisions,” Todd said.

City officials will schedule a time to sit down with the two groups and go over rules and guidelines.

“People in my ward say they have been in their side yards, back yards looking at trees and have interfered with some of the jobs (the DPW) tried to do. I want to make sure there are some rules about what they can and cannot do,” Todd said.

Todd also noted that some trees planted recently as part of a program to restore trees around the city have been planted over sewer or utility lines and others so close to homes that they may interfere with the foundations in the future.

City resident Miles Becker said he has seen tree stewards chopping down branches.

“Who’s telling them that those branches need to come down?” he asked.

“That’s what we’re talking about,” Donovan replied.

Smith noted that they have had discussions with the stewards group in the past and that they have been a help to his department.

“That program has been running for a couple years now and has been successful,” he said. “Somewhere we have something written down (regarding guidelines).”

The group has a great passion for trees, Council President Ron Kaplewicz pointed out.

“We appreciate their help in making this a beautiful city. They certainly have been a great source of volunteer labor,” he said of the stewards.

They have been helpful in identifying trees that are diseased and have other issues, he said.

He agreed that it would be a good idea to sit down periodically with the groups “and just talk about roles and responsibilities so that we’re very clear about what we’re trying to do here and how we’re trying to do it so we can be as effective as we can.”

One of the objectives when the city adopted its 20/20 Vision Plan a few years ago was to become a Tree City USA, Community Development Director Mary Vanouse said.

One of the requirements of that designation was that there be a group of volunteers that work on trees, she noted.

“That has evolved over the years. There have been volunteers that came to the fore and championed the whole idea of becoming a Tree City USA,” she said. “The Tree Advisory Board and tree code that was adopted two years ago is part of that Tree City USA requirement.”

The tree volunteers were authorized to work on street trees and park trees, she explained.

Some residents may have been confused due to the recent city tree inventory, she said.

“They went into what people consider their yards, but was actually within the city’s right of way,” she pointed out. “The Davey Group has completed its inventory. We have over 6,000 trees in the city.”

“We’ve met all the obligations; we’ve been a Tree City USA for two years now. So we are now in a good place to receive more money to help us to match the trees we generally get for the wards,” she continued. “We will be more competitive in getting more money from the DEC. We’ll be able to maximize that investment.”

No date has yet been scheduled for the meeting.

The committee also gave a favorable recommendation to a request by Vanouse to apply for a tree maintenance grant and a tree planting grant for up to $25,000 per grant from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

The DEC has issued a request for applications from municipalities, she said.

Oswego has been designated as a Tree City USA and has completed a comprehensive tree inventory, which will make the city more competitive in garnering grant awards for management equipment and funding for tree planting and maintenance grants, she added.

The Community Development Office requires council authorization to apply for a Tree Management Grant and a Tree Planting Grant for up to $25,000 per grant.


  1. Councilors Todd, Donovan, and Myers have brought back the mindset of expediently sacrificing Oswego’s Great Trees for questionable, unspecified reasons. A potential GIANT leap backward for the City. Even Tree Steward “supporter” Ron Kaplewwicz’s response was tepid at best. Decades old, even century old trees CAN NOT be replaced easily, cheaply, or in a “timely” manner. Large, or growing trees, remove excess water runoff (helping our sewer system), 1 pound of wood sequesters 3 lbs of carbon dioxide, erosion is reduced, windbreaking, shade (summer cooling), & transpiration of water from leaves cools in the summer too. Trees add to the natural beauty, and value of property too. Tree City status increases our access to grant money for further tree planting and maintenance. Mr. Todd & Company may want to explain to Novelis why they should continue to donate to the City’s need for tree replacement. Evidently, their $$ and good will is NOT appreciated. If their donated trees are going to be cut down for driveways and parking lots might be a good idea to inform them first before they commit the funding.
    As a city resident, tax payer, and Tree Steward I want my city and kids to enjoy a more natural environment, FOR THE LONG TERM.
    Mr. Becker should know be now that the purpose of the Tree Stewards has been to augment the DPW’s efforts by dealing with trees that need “manicures” for their health and ability to thrive. Trimming branches is “part” of what we do. “The wrongs done to trees, wrongs of every sort, are done in the darkness of ignorance and unbelief…..” John Muir (1838-1914)

  2. What do you expect from these councilmen? You folks put them in office. You reap what you sew. They are not, in my opinion, stewards of the land and they never will be. What are they doing to bring jobs to the City? What plan and ideas have they brought forth to encourage job growth? Nothing. They are as useless as some of our representatives in Washington. Oswego is really on the right path with these men in office. Ask yourself, are things better today than they were 2 or 4 years ago? No, I think not.

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