City Decides Fate Of Westside Trees

(Updated) The city will remove 20 ash trees and put 13 trees on monitor status for the ravages of the emerald ash borer.

That is the decision of the city’s Tree Warden Rebecca Bombero, who also is the director of Parks, Recreation & Trees.

Bombero came to that decision a few days after meeting with neighbors about the fate of ash trees infested with the destructive beetle. Central Avenue has nine trees slated for removal, but also nine trees on monitoring status that neighbors can adopt and pay to have treated to try to stave off the death of the tree. West Prospect Street will have seven of its ash trees removed while just one is slated to be removed.

“The Department shares the opinions of the benefit of trees and strives to protect healthy trees,” Bombero said in a letter dated Aug. 13. “Unfortunately, planting patterns from decades ago lead to large clusters of Ash Trees. New policies of species diversification will over time remedy this issue.

“The City will continue to post all ash trees with notice of the disease but moving forward will only post for removal trees that indicate 30% or more of deterioration and will monitor the remainder for progression,” she further said. “The City will continue to inform residents about the option of adopting the treatment of Ashes for the Borer. Residents can contact an Arborist for a complete consolation specific to their ash tree.”

Bombero further stressed in her letter that the city contracts with Urban Resources Initiative to replant trees, but neighbors must be proactive and set that up. Click here to reach URI.

Below is Bombero’s decision on a street-by-street basis:
Central Ave:
279 – Little to no dieback of crown. Monitor
289 – Slight dieback of the crown. Monitor
366/368 – Slight dieback of the crown. Neighbor committed to monitor and possibly adopt.
367 – Some thinning of the crown and girdled roots. Neighbor/resident committed to monitor and possibly adopt.
389—Young tree, no signs of decline. Resident committed to monitor and possibly adopt.
403—Significant thinning of crown, exposed bark, exit holes. Tree will be removed.
405 – Less thinning of crown than the tree on either side. Still around the 30% threshold. Could be removed but the resident gave significant testimony to the benefits and value, will monitor at this time but may quickly move to reposting/removal.
415 – Extreme thinning of crown, epithelial growth. Tree will be removed.
449 – Testimony received from resident in favor of removal citing frequent limbs crashing. Resident committed to adopting new plantings. Significant thinning of crown, exit holes. Tree will be removed.
453 -‐ Testimony received from neighbor in favor of removal citing frequent limbs crashing. Neighbor committed to adopting new plantings. Significant thinning of crown, exit holes. Tree will be removed.
457 -‐ Testimony received from neighbor in favor of removal citing frequent limbs crashing. Neighbor committed to adopting new plantings. Significant thinning of crown, exit holes. Tree will be removed.
503 -‐ Somewhat thinning of crown. Monitor
509/511 -‐ Somewhat thinning in crown. Monitor
556/558 – Significant thinning crown, girdled roots, exit holes. Tree will be removed.
562 – 1st left – missing bark, significant dieback, 2nd middle significant dieback, dead leaders, cavities, 3rd right completely dead Three trees will be removed.
Corner of Central and Yale – Slight dieback of crown. Monitor

West Prospect:
30 ‐- Completely dead. Tree will be removed.
43‐45 ‐- Significant dieback of crown, lean, bark loss. Tree will be removed.
44 ‐- One full leader gone, peeling bark, serpentine pattern. Tree will be removed.
49 – Significant dieback, epithelial growth, lean. Tree will be removed.
55 -‐ Significant dieback, epithelial growth. Tree will be removed.
71 -‐ Testimony was received supporting the removal. The tree shows a thinning crown and has a history of falling limbs. Tree will be removed.
95 – Significant dieback, epithelial growth, loss of bark. Tree will be removed.
157 Brooklawn Circle -‐ The Tree at 157 Brooklawn Circle shows significant thinning of the crown. The tree will be removed.
70 Whittier -‐ The tree at 70 Whittier shows moderate die back in the crown, one detached limb and lost bark with evidence of the classic serpentine pattern beneath. Tree will be removed.
110 Westwood Ave -‐ First tree on the Central Ave side of 110 Westwood shows significant thinning of the crown and at least one dying leader. The tree will be removed. The second tree on the Central Ave side of 110 Westwood shows some dieback in the crown but can be monitored at this time.

26‐28 & 32 Pendelton – Trees at these addresses do not yet show significant signs of infestation the trees will be moved to the monitor status.
35 Pendelton – The first tree (right hand side) of 35 Pendelton shows significant thinning of the crown and peeling bark. The tree will be removed. The second tree (left hand side) does not yet show significant signs of infestation and will be moved to the monitor status.
28 West Rock – Testimony was received supporting the removal. The tree at 28 West Rock shows a thinning crown and evidence of insect boring, it will be removed.
408 Yale Ave – As the tree at 408 Yale Ave does not yet show significant signs of infestation the tree will be moved to the monitor status.

Neighbors can still contest Bombero’s decision per sec. 23‐59, which says that “Any party aggrieved by this decision may, within ten days,
appeal therefrom to the superior court for the judicial district.”

Below follows the original story:

Neighbors Seek To Save Trees From Beetles, City

The neighbor wanted a direct, no BS answer from city Arborist Fernando Lage: If Lage had an ash tree infected with an emerald ash borer, would he treat it or chop it down?

That was just one of the many tough questions that 15 neighbors pressed to Lage and the city’s Tree Warden Rebecca Bombero on Thursday at the city’s parks department office Edgewood Avenue during a public hearing of objections to the removal of ash trees that have been infested with the emerald ash borer.

The invasive beetle from Asia is killing trees from the inside out in New Haven. The city is looking at removing about 85 of those trees. It posted notices advising the neighbors and held Thursday’s meeting to field concerns.

Of which there were many.

“Taking off my tree warden hat, I am a neighbor and I have an ash tree in my front yard,” Bombero answered before Lage could weigh in. “I have adopted it and I’m treating it. I know that it might be a futile attempt but it makes me feel good that I might be doing something to save it.”

“I understand that,” the neighbor replied. “But I’m asking the scientist to answer.”

The terse response came after neighbors — many from Central Avenue and West Prospect Street — learned that treating infected ash trees with an insecticide would not guarantee that a tree might survive.

If neighbors had a tree that they wanted to save, they were told, they’ll have to do it on their own dime. The city’s using taxpayer dollars only to cut down dead and dying trees, not for non-guaranteed attempts to save them.

Lage spoke up.

“If the percentage is over 30 percent defoliated and dying then it’s not worth it to save,” he said. “I’d look at the canopy, try to judge the amount of dead wood on the tree. If it’s over 30 percent, I’d cut it down.”

The destructive beetle was first identified in the U.S. in 2002 around the Detroit area and across the river in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, killing off much of the ash tree population there. It has since spread to about 15 states as far south as Tennessee, as far west as Minnesota and as far east as New Haven, according to a fact sheet put together by the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station. The beetles and their damage started showing up in Connecticut just five years ago.

The beetles lay their eggs between the bark of the tree. After about a week hatch and bore into the tree and feed on it. Early detection of an infestation can be hard, but symptoms include tree limbs at the very top of a tree that don’t grow leaves and fall off the tree and bark that vertically splits.

Bombero said the city has set aside in its capital budget just under $100,000 to address the infestation with tree removal, which could be larger given that the city has 750 ash trees. She said that the city can’t justify spending taxpayer dollars for anything other than removal given that the effectiveness of treatment is uncertain.

Bombero said that in about three days a decision will be made on the fate of each of the posted trees. Those found to be less than 30 percent dying will be put on a monitoring list and will be available for adoption so that they can be treated. But trees that are too far gone will be cut. Neighbors who want a new tree to replace the old tree and are willing to care for it should contact the city. The west side of town isn’t the only one impacted Foster Street, which is in the East Rock section of the city has 21 trees still in the comment period, though some trees on that street have already been removed, she said.

If a tree is tagged for removal in a neighborhood an objection must be filed during the 10-day comment period to trigger a public hearing and to make sure that those trees get a second look. If there is no objection, Bombero said the tree will be removed. The 10-day count down starts depending on when the notice on the tree was put up. For other tree problems, Bombero is asking neighbors to put them into SeeClickFix and to have a little patience.

The city has 2,000 trees in its backlog to address, she said.

Some neighbors challenged Bombero and Lage, suggesting that there have been successes with treating the trees. Bombero responded that the most recent research suggests that it is unclear that treatment will save the trees in the long run.

“There’s no guarantee,” she said. “You could treat a tree and have it die next month, or you could treat a tree for four years and have it die in the fourth year.”

What is guaranteed, Lage said, is that completely removing a dying ash tree eliminates the infestation. And planting a different species of tree ensures that the beetles don’t return to the new tree. That’s because the emerald ash borer likes to eat only ash trees.

Megan Boyd showed up hoping to save the tree that provides shade and privacy for her third-floor apartment on Central Avenue, where a number of trees have been tagged for possible removal.

The ash trees, particularly between Edgewood Avenue and Elm Street, are the last of some of the only large trees providing shade on an otherwise sun-splashed stretch of street. If the tree in front of her house is removed, she said, her electricity bill could rise.

What if she adopts the tree and pays to have it treated, and then it dies anyway: she asked. Would she be responsible for having it removed?

Bombero said if Boyd pays to have the tree treated and it lives, the city would maintain the trimming of the tree. If it dies the city would come cut it down.

But if Boyd, or any neighbor, wants a new tree planted, they need to speak up and let the city know.  There is no automatic tree replanting program. The city, with the help of the Urban Resources Initiative, replants a tree if a neighbor requests it and if the neighbor is willing to help care for the tree by making sure it stayed watered.

Bombero said that trees have a better chance of survival if neighbors adopt them.

Boyd said after the meeting that she understands the city’s position on the cost effectiveness of cutting versus treating, but she said she wants to do more research. The tree in front of her house has been removed from the cut list to a monitoring list because it does not appear to have more than 30 percent infestation. But she said she’s also now thinking about what impacts an insecticide might have on the environment if it gets back into the soil around the tree and eventually the groundwater.

“It’s all connected,” she said.

Chris Barnard, who lives on Elm Street near Pendleton, said he wishes that city officials had more information.

“I would save a tree,” he said. “I wish they seemed to be doing more to figure out options about treatment and giving us more information about it. I’ve learned more from the other community members here and it took a lot of pushing the officials here. I will also say that I wish some of the community members were less rude. But I understand the frustration.”

Barnard said that there didn’t seem to be enough information about the success rate of treatment or even how much treatment might cost, or much effort on the city’s part to find out that information.

“I understand that they’re overworked and underfunded,” he said. “But this is another example of how cutting funding is bad for everyone.”

Not everyone objected to having trees taken down. Westvillian Mike Pinto, who also happens to work for the city’s transit department, said he and two of his neighbors have trees that definitely are being killed by the bug. He said he’d be willing to adopt new trees and help his elderly neighbors take care of any new plantings.

Sam and Louise Zona said they, too, are happy that a tree that currently leans precariously and is dropping branches during a strong wind will be cut down from in front of their West Prospect Street home. Sam said the tree is already lifting the sidewalk and has been doing so since Superstorm Sandy. The Zonas fear that bigger branches are going to land on a car, or worse a person, if the tree doesn’t come down soon.

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posted by: theNEWnewhaven on August 11, 2017  2:07pm

The problem with these people is they don’t take down the DEAD trees but instead cut down the living ones for power lines.

LET’S BE REAL - When you do cut down the tree…you leave the stump!

if you’re going to butcher out trees instead of treating them….CLEAR away the whole tree! Don’t leave a two foot stump standing for us to mourn as we walk our dogs or walk to work.

ALSO, replacement trees? That’s a thing we’re doing in the city still, right?

Can we PLEASE get the dead trees down before they crash on us this winter?

posted by: DR on August 11, 2017  4:19pm

The following may help people decide whether to treat an ash tree or not:

As Ms Bombero says there’s not guarantee that after several years of treatment that the tree still becomes too infested to save. However, treatment might give biological controls to make over; removing the tree removes the possibility of that.

As to theEWnewhaven’s comment, taking down living trees is unconscionable. Megan Boyd points out in the article that the large trees provide shade and cooling, and privacy. A replacement tree won’t do that. Even if the trees are trimmed, they do not have just the dead wood removed. They are mangled in s way that is about guaranteed to weaken them to the point where they will have to be cut down. There’s got to be a better way.

posted by: citoyen on August 11, 2017  10:07pm

The city’s program, in association with the Urban Resources Initiative, for planting up to two new trees in front of any property, provided the owner agrees to water and care for them for a least the first year—is terrific.

But I think it is a terrible abdication of responsibility for the city to invoke that program in a case like this—where the city itself is massively destroying street trees. The initiative for planting replacements should not have to come from property owners—it should come from the city, which is doing all the cutting. (Note: I myself am not such a property owner; I have no personal agenda here, only a civic one.)

Take down a tree, plant a replacement. That is the only viable way to keep New Haven a city of trees in the long run. Older trees do die. The magic of little trees is that they grow into big trees.

Very, very unfair to put the onus on property owners to have to jump through the hoops of the tree planting program in a case like this. Yes, new trees need to be cared for. But it is the city that should be contacting all the property owners involved, taking the initiative to directly offer new trees, and asking if the owner is willing to accept the responsibility for care. Yes, this would take some staff time. But the city needs to be showing it wants to be constructive here, not just destructive.

Street trees *make* neighborhoods. The trees we benefit from today were planted by people in the past, who were looking to the future—a future they knew they themselves would not benefit from, but which they knew would benefit others. This sort of thinking used to motivate city governments. I’ll bet that, for example, the trees on Central Ave. were planted by the city itself back in the day, as a civic works project, not needing property owners’ requests.

Please—the city needs to rethink its requirements for replacement trees in this case.

posted by: Ben Howell on August 11, 2017  11:21pm

As the article mentions, Foster St in East Rock, is about to have a large number of Ash trees wacked-down. There’s a stretch on the block where 6 in a row on one side of the street are going down.

Given how much the character of the street will be changed & potentially the property values on the street, I would hope the city has a better plan then “wait until a property owner asks for a new tree.” Furthermore, I have to agree that the practice of leaving a stump only adds insult to injury.

posted by: Bill Saunders on August 12, 2017  3:38am

The New New Haven,

Just remember, these old trees don’t need to be dead to be a hazard…

large limbs come down all the time.  That is part of having an old tree around….  sometimes it might take a hurricane,but other times limbs might randomly fall in the day or night.

In fact, during the Occupy ‘Movement’, I was waiting for a large limb to crash down on protesters at the City’s Ultimate Expense….

Insurance companies hate these things (large trees), so that is the impetus if stumping is going on….

posted by: edgewooder on August 12, 2017  4:42pm

Agree with a number of comments above about the loss of shade, the stump left behind, the cost transfer to residents, etc. I also have one to add…

On Pendleton between W Park and Elm alone there are at least 7-8 trees tagged for removal. The stretch is almost entirely multi-family, a good number without landlords in them. Do the owners even know that the trees are slated for removal? (The one I just contacted had no idea.) Is the city counting on renters to pass word along based on a few flyers stapled to trees, or (even less likely) to invest time, energy and money in new trees, despite the fact that they probably won’t be there long enough to reap the benefit? If so, that’s outrageous. It also seems bound to alter the character of streets most where the residents aren’t as likely to be aware/able/willing to sign on for short or longterm tree care. That’s not right.

(An aside: I’m a resident who also did call the Tree Warden after the flyers went up. I left a message saying I had questions. I never heard back. I realize the office is stretched thin, but it doesn’t bode well for getting the right info and navigating the process going forward, especially with conflicting info now circulating about how to proceed.)

posted by: Wyvernish on August 13, 2017  12:23pm

I am hopeful that the hearing and some one these Comments will tilt things toward care for trees that seem most worthy of reasonable efforts to try & save them. Also, I wish for a more proactive stance toward successor trees that will not bring much of their benefit for many years.

One thing I have not read about is completely dead NON-ash trees, such as one on Central Ave in the 570’s, that stands next to a marked ash tree. With the removal of the ash tree, if such action proceeds, its dead neighbor will be that much more visible, unsightly, and potentially hazardous. Can efforts be made to address this as well?

Btw, although the tree posting came as a complete surprise and the 10 day limit to request a hearing seemed short, I found instructions for requesting a hearing clear,  my email to request a hearing was accepted, notices about the hearing were posted on the trees, and I received a phone call informing me of the hearing. I was additionally aided by a neighborhood social media site that raised concern & gave me advance notice regarding the nature of the proposed action.