ENDICOTT – Niki Wales has lived on South Street in the village of Endicott for over two decades. She loves the street and gets on well with her neighbors. However, after an incident in December, she was ready to move.

The village felled 35 Bradford pear trees along the road, baring the familiar view from their front door.

“It was a real shock. Our street was like a Norman Rockwell painting. It was beautiful, ”said Wales. “They would be in bloom now, and a few months later it would look like it was snowing and all the flowers were falling. It was just beautiful. It’s a wasteland now. ”

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The village removed the trees because they believed their roots were damaging underground plumbing along the road, a claim that has been denied by many South Street residents. The trees were felled a day before a massive blizzard buried Broome County in nearly four feet of snow.

A petition distributed by Wales in the following weeks asked the village to replace the trees. It was signed by all but two of the 20 houses on the street, she said.

“I love my street. All of my neighbors are great. That made me move, ”said Wales. “They weren’t huge trees at all. The city came and cut them and kept maintenance going. They weren’t huge 100 year old oaks or anything. They were still pretty small. ”

Regardless of the wisdom of cutting down the pear trees on South Street, the incident has led a group of Endicott residents to ensure that citizens have a bigger voice on such decisions.

The pear trees could bear fruit again.

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Planting a tree city USA

The fate of the South Street trees caught the attention of Terri Farrell, a member of the Endicott Parks Committee with a background in environmental science and forestry. Farrell teamed up with Wales and other residents who were determined to be part of future tree management decisions on the streets of the village.

That led Farrell to the Arbor Day Foundation’s Tree City USA program. More than 3,400 towns, villages, and towns across the country, including nearby Binghamton, have received the Tree City USA award. To qualify, a municipality must meet four criteria:

1. A tree board or a department. Tree care decisions are delegated to a professional forester, arborist, city council, citizen-run tree plank, or a combination of the four.

2. A tree care ordinance. The ordinance “provides an opportunity to establish good policies and, if necessary, support them with the force of law,” according to the Arbor Day Foundation.

3. A community forest program with an annual budget of at least $ 2 per capita. Funds can be used for planting, tending and removing trees – money already included in most community budgets.

4th An Arbor Day Observation and Proclamation. Tree City USA program members who are easiest to meet must hold an annual Arbor Day ceremony. Many involve children and may include a tree-planting event, tree-care activities, or an awards show honoring leading tree-planters.

Farrell believes that Tree City USA’s requirements would codify village policies and educate the public about the importance of trees. The criteria would clarify who is responsible for decisions that affect community trees on village property and “provide clear guidelines for planting, maintaining and / or removing trees from streets, parks and other public spaces”.

An Arbor Day poster competition,

Farrell has already received a commitment from the City of Union to join the Tree City USA program. Union has been working on the requirements of Tree City since 2019 and has drawn up a tree ordinance.

City officials are planning a tree planting ceremony on Saturday, May 1st at 1:00 p.m. in Glendale Park, led by Councilor Heather Staley, who is on the tree committee with Farrell and UE science teacher Terre Trupp. A $ 1,000 grant has been made to grow three red maples and the city will be giving away 250 seedlings during the event. Free crafts and activities are offered for families, and an ice cream truck will be on-site. The prizes will be awarded for an Arbor Day poster competition entitled “The Trees Outside Our Window,” which was attended by around 60 entries from the Union-Endicott Central School District. City officials assessed the submissions.

T-shirts and clothing will also be available to raise funds for a new Jeff Cook Memory of Environmental Science and Forestry Scholarship awarded to an older student entering the field. Cook was a local arborist, craftsman, and nature lover.

Farrell is confident the village will follow the city’s lead and take steps to join the Tree City USA program by the fall.

“We’re really making this an opportunity to turn a bad situation into a good one,” said Farrell. “Because of that, a lot of really great things happen. Let’s use this as an opportunity to raise awareness and educate our community about the importance of tree vitality. ”

On South Street, Wales will testify that sometimes you don’t know what you have until it’s gone.

“I have tons of shade-loving plants in my front yard. Well, these are somehow in danger because there is no longer any shadow, ”she said. “Our heating costs will rise, our cooling costs will rise. These trees have done a lot for us. I can’t even sleep in the morning because our bedroom is so bright. We’re all really affected by the disappearance of those trees, not to mention our property values ​​falling because we’re no longer a tree-lined street. ”

Village is taking steps to avoid tragic tree removal in the future

Local tree attorneys sell T-shirts and raise funds for a new Environmental Science and Forestry Scholarship in memory of Jeff Cook, given to an older student entering the field.

While the village does not yet have to make a formal decision to join Tree City USA, it is meanwhile taking steps to protect its trees.

At his last board meeting, Trustee Ted Warner proposed a resolution restricting the removal of trees from the village’s land, including the village offices, visitor center, library, police and fire department, and village parks, “without a majority vote” to the Board of Trustees . “Exceptions for emergency situations would be made at the discretion of the village manager and / or a department head.

The board held the proposal for re-examination at its next meeting. Trustee Nick Burlingame agreed that the village needed a tree clearing procedure.

“We don’t want another South Street incident. I think that’s tragic, ”said Burlingame. “Perhaps it would take more strategic planning on the part of the village to plan tree litter so it doesn’t get to that point and then replant it so it doesn’t all come at once. I think the clear tactic is a bit much. ”

Deputy Mayor Eileen Konecny ​​said the village should respect its historic trees, dating back 100 years or more to the time of George F. Johnson, owner of the Endicott Johnson Shoe Company, which once employed over 20,000 people.

“Those trees we’re talking about, he was sitting in his house and looking at them and probably planting them,” Warner said.

Chris Potter can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @ ChrisPotter413. For full access to the latest news, subscribe or activate your digital account today.