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Tree removal deemed for safety concerns

Unlimited Heights Tree Service works on tree removal Tuesday at Melchoir Park in Gloversville. (The Leader-Herald/Michael Anich)

GLOVERSVILLE — City officials recently explained to the public more about a tree project in Melchoir Park that is being done because of many diseased and dangerous trees.

“Melchoir Park presents the most dangerous tree conditions in a public space that I have witnessed in my career,” said city DPW Director Chris Perry.

The park — lying off North Park Drive and South Park Drive — has been cordoned off for some time. Unlimited Heights Tree Service of Johnstown is doing a project to bring down many trees. The Common Council has approved the project.

City officials recently issued statements on social media explaining to the public why the project is being done.

Mayor Vincent DeSantis stated: “I understand that many are disappointed at the order to close Melchoir Park this week. I apologize for the inconvenience, especially this time of year when we are all starting to enjoy being outdoors.”

Unlimited Heights Tree Service works on tree removal Tuesday at Melchoir Park in Gloversville. (The Leader-Herald/Michael Anich)

But DeSantis said there are “compelling reasons” for the city’s investment in Melchoir Park this year and the city’s strategy of improvement going forward.

“Please understand that the present state of the park’s tree canopy is a disaster waiting to happen and it is the city’s responsibility to do everything it can protect the public,” the mayor said. “However, this closure is very temporary. The work will begin after the first of June and our goal is to complete it by the end of the month.”

DeSantis noted the first phase is tree removal starting at the east end of the park and working westward. Then stump removal will follow. Parts of the park will be opened from east to west during the month as the dangerous trees are removed.

In a statement to the public, Perry, city DPW director and an arborist, said he appreciated the public concerns about the 2021 Melchoir Park tree removals and the tree canopy.

“As far as the mature tree canopy is concerned, one of the primary components of any urban forest program should consist of a process of ongoing, year-round hazard tree assessments,” he said. “The Gloversville Urban Forest is a living and ever-changing ecosystem with a unique set of challenges different from what a more natural forest setting would require from a management and public safety structure. You can be assured that the trees that we will remove this year from Melchoir Park are all in decline (some very serious that pose great potential risk) and that the need and strategy to remove is well thought out and measured.”

Melchoir Park off South Park Drive in Gloversville remained cordoned off Tuesday for an ongoing tree removal project. (The Leader-Herald/Michael Anich)

Perry said the city will not remove healthy large trees. The trees slated for removal within the park have advanced decay, some are deceased, some have suffered significant storm damage, along with other structural defects. A total of 26 of the 34 trees slated for removal are Silver Maples that are all in various state of decline.

He said Silver Maples – as a species – are the most brittle and weak-wooded large tree species in North America. They are also one of the shortest-lived large tree species and the rate of wood decay at maturity is known and chronicled to advance rapidly within this species. There is no pruning that can be done to make the trees safe long-term. Most of the branch collar limb attachments show signs and indications of significant decay and decay has advanced deep into trees that have suffered prior storm damage. All the trees are at risk of multi-limb canopy failure or entire tree failure, especially the Silver Maples given the nature of the species.

Perry said the Silver Maples have poor major limb attachments with signs of decay present making the limb attachments at greater risk of complete failure – such as the large limb that broke away on a clear calm day just missing a young child. Silver Maples are known to break apart and/or suffer complete failure due to advancing decay signs now present, he said.

“This current project being performed will remove 34 dying and hazardous trees within Melchoir Park, which we have identified to be at risk of total failure due to significant wood decay fungi (either base/root flare, trunk/stem and/or branch collar attachments), noticeable external decay, deep vertical trunk cracking, large numbers of carpenter ants observed during summer months in conjunction with other defects, defects created by storm damage that we can no longer mitigate to preserve a certain tree, past canopy leaf out at less than 66 percent in conjunction with and other structural defects, and others — all located in a public park pedestrian area with a high number of potential targets,” Perry said.

“In some cases, we have to remove the trees due to buttress root decay in conjunction with an increase in the amount of fruiting fungi structures of the worst kind (Ustulina deusta fungi) at base of trunk or within old branch failure cavities. Those trees impacted by Ustulina deusta fungi at base of trunk or within old branch failure cavities concern us the most. Infected trees decay rapidly and can eventually fail, either from large upper canopy fractures or from the base and/or large buttress roots that give away and are more prone to wind throw during storms,” Perry said.

Perry said the city just went out to bid for Gloversville’s first Hazard Tree Removal Contract — with the focus for this first-year addressing that hazard tree conditions within Melchoir Park.

“This is a serious public safety issue for the city — the hazard tree conditions in Melchoir Park are the most dangerous known risk to the residents of Gloversville that we face right now,” he said. “We do not know when a crime event and fire may occur in the city, but we know the serious risk present in the park now that we can abate. Recently, a large limb broke away from one of the trees I have marked for removal and nearly killed a couple small kids playing in the park under the tree. It missed them by about 8- to 10-feet. Tree limbs routinely break away from those trees — storm or no storm event. It is only a matter of time a catastrophe occurs within Melchoir Park if no action is taken.”

“DPW staff gets nervous every time we mow or do other work in that park since they have seen and cleaned up the many large limbs and sections of trees that have broken away over the years; and that have occurred more frequently the past two to three years,” Perry said. ” In addition, I have met with a few tree contractors who want to bid on the tree removals, and they have never seen a city park with so many hazard trees present at one time that should have been removed many years ago. The trees are in such a precarious and advanced state of decline with significant decay and structural issues, that the actual removals will be more hazardous and time consuming as the trees will have to be cut and pieced down in smaller sections via a crane. These trees and the hazard conditions at Melchoir Park have been neglected for the past 10-15 years.”

Being an arborist, Perry said it was shocking to take stock of the extreme hazard tree conditions in the city and at Melchoir Park in particular. I have been a certified arborist for 18 years and have also taken training and done field work to become additionally credentialed through the International Society of Arboriculture Hazard Tree Risk Assessment Qualified (ISA-TRAQ) program.

“Melchoir Park also presents a tremendous opportunity for the city as we are going to designate and restore Melchoir Park as the official city of Gloversville Arboretum. The city would plant and introduce new tree species every year. The poor condition and perilous state of the existing tree canopy within this park presents one of the most extreme hazard conditions within the city. The newly adopted Gloversville Tree Action Plan will make Melchoir Park its initial priority for hazard tree removal in 2021 and a reforestation priority for years to come with the introduction of tree species diversity not present within the city at this time.”

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