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Oswego Tree Stewards Displeased With Loss Of Downtown Trees

OSWEGO, NY – The Port City’s volunteer tree stewards are concerned about the city’s decision to cut down several trees in the business district.

City workers clean up a dead tree at West First Street near West Bridge Street recently. (Photo provided by June MacArthur)
City workers clean up a dead tree at West First Street near West Bridge Street recently. (Photo provided by June MacArthur)

“I’m very upset over decisions that are being made about Oswego’s tree canopy. We’ve been working as Oswego tree stewards to help educate people about how important city trees are to us, the city and the world for that matter,” said June MacArthur. “We can’t replace the trees fast enough in this city!  And I could just scream.”

“If you love your city tree you better go outside and hug it because if DPW’s reason for cutting down the seven trees on West First Street is because they’re dying, every tree in the city is dying, so every city tree could be in danger of being cut down!” she continued.

If the real reason for cutting down those seven Pin Oaks was because the storeowners felt the trees blocked their signs, those trees should have just been trimmed up, she added.

“We are going to replace those seven dead trees,” Oswego DPW Commissioner Mike Smith told Oswego County Today.

Smith said that within the next two weeks new trees are scheduled to be planted.

“This is similar to what we did elsewhere in the city last year,” the commissioner explained. “We replaced seven other dying trees. This is just a continuation of that effort.”

The trees in question “had a big canopy and looked much nicer than some down the street,” according to MacArthur.

All of those trees are stressed because of the soil conditions and one in particular is practically dead, she added.

“We, the public and taxpayers, who walked along those streets certainly appreciated the shading and transpiration those trees gave us. Those trees also removed pollutants from our downtown air, they helped with storm water runoff from the street and they made our downtown area look more attractive,” she said. “Now we’ve got an ugly barren street and heaven help us if they just keep cutting the trees down the street towards the lake.”

No other trees are currently being considered, Smith said.

He said the city is looking at planting “a variety of different trees.”

MacArthur said she is tired of the number of trees Oswego loses every year.

“We recently did a tree survey and we saw how few trees are thriving after five years in the ground; many of them dead,” she said.

Not only is there the cost of the tree but they buy ball and burlap, the most expensive tree to buy and plant because of the manpower involved, she pointed out.

“They can’t see the root structure until after they get it in the ground and many of them have distorted root structures,” she said. “Would you buy a product that you didn’t know was good until after you did the work with it?”

She and her husband, Phil, have facilitated educational sessions where they’ve brought in speakers from within and outside the community to talk about what kind of trees to plant and how to plant container trees, ball and burlap and bare root plantings.

“We’ve had our core group of about 12 citizens volunteering Saturdays to teach others how to prune the city trees in the parks and along streets,” she said. “We’ve had up to 25 people at a time come to learn about the care and importance of city trees.”

The nurseries are using machines to “hill up” the trunks with dirt, which can cause serious root problems, she said.

“You can’t have dirt or mulch touching the bark or trunk,” she explained. “No one can do things today like they did the last 20 years. We don’t cook like our grandparents did. We don’t clean like they did, making ash and lye. Well, planting trees and caring for them is different too and we need our people to be up-to-date.”

She said she hopes any new trees the city plants are conducive to this area.

Before the city replaces the trees, she encourages them to analyze soil ph, soil compaction, soil type and soil amendments. And, she suggests the new trees be examined for root damage and root distortion from the nursery and asks whether the root collar will be visible above grade.

And not accept those that aren’t good trees. These are all things the city’s arborist would tell you to do (if Oswego had one), she added.

“We done some research to find trees that are more resilient to Oswego’s weather and that have a better chance of surviving all the sand and road salt from the winters,” Smith said.

Smith said he hopes the new trees will grow and thrive in the Port City for many years to come.

“We have a tree friendly mayor and I believe most of the aldermen. They realize that trees add value to the individual home owners and to our city,” MacArthur said.

She said she hopes others will call their alderman or the mayor and voice their opinion on this, “Because I think now is the time to be heard.”

“If out of all this we get them to check the soils, do something about the compaction and plant trees that are conducive to the locations and environment, we will have a start at something wonderful,” she said.

1 Comment

  1. Just a thought. I have often wondered myself, how do these trees totally encapsulated by concrete survive the heavy salting during the winter months?

    BEFORE we invest in the new trees, is there a way to provide a couple of foot ‘boot’ around any trees we plant, or some way to keep them from being literally dehydrated to death with the salt and other chemicals we use here in the northeast to make sidewalks passable, and SAFE for pedestrians?

    Also, think it might be a good idea if the TREE STEWARD group might be invited to the DPW meetings when they decide what sort of trees to use, and make sure they are climate and regional appropriate, as well as limited density of foliage.
    Like not so full, thinner, but still beautiful flowers/leaves.

    Such a waste of life to keep planting trees, allowing them to ‘mature’ to a third of the normal life of that variety, only to cut them down again. Contacting other municipalities and finding out what has worked for them might be co$t saving in the end.

    Also, sadly, these tree lined streets we are emulating might actually be more for southeastern coastal cities rather than we who live in the northeast. We can’t copy the downtown images of say North or South Carolina, as they don’t need to salt and sand as much as we do, or for as long.

    I recall when City Library took down their trees (a couple were run into by aging patrons who bumped the incline (curb), and killed the trees, but I think a few were cut down, too.

    I LOVE the look of the lamps and the trees, but as a business owner, I also like having my expensive signage ‘seen’ so I can do business (and pay taxes, too, for those wonderful trees, don’t get mad at me, June, smile!). It’s a cunundrum, I think, between nature and society, and we need to find a way to make them work together. Trees are truly beautiful and enhance our CITY, but not if we keep cutting the wee things down before they mature!

    The non-city trees (maples that matured in an empty lot) on the west side of my building have my signs say BOO most of the year, rather than Books & Tea! LOL, so I understand why the merchants might be concerned, too! It’s only a little funny.

    Debbie Engelke
    Time Books

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