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Local News

April 17, 2014

Mayor laments recurring vandalism of city trees

Two young trees planted near the intersection of Market and South Main streets recently were vandalized, the mayor said Wednesday.

The trees have been replanted into their spaces, but they are located near two trees that were vandalized in the autumn and left without any branches, Mayor Dick Miller said. He reported at Tuesday night’s Common Council meeting about the costs and impact of such vandalism.

“It’s outrageous behavior — very sad,” Miller said Wednesday. In the past two years, the city has planted about 300 trees, of which about 10 percent have been either destroyed or damaged, he said. The cost to replace the trees would exceed $20,000, Miller said.

The two trees vandalized were disturbed Friday or Saturday night, Miller said. A harvest of city trees in recent years was set aside for a program to plant and replace trees, he said, but the question is whether to spend money to address damage by vandals.

Tree vandalism has been a problem for decades, according to David Hutchison, chairman of the city’s Environmental Board. But instances last fall were numerous and upsetting enough to report to the police department.

No arrests were made.

Miller said in recent years, the tree-planting program has involved buying older trees that have a greater chance of survival and will be aesthetically pleasing sooner than less-mature starter trees. 

The vandalism sparks outrage and disappointment, Miller said, but the good news is that 90 percent of the trees have survived.

Of the 10 percent of trees vandalized, about 3 percent were destroyed, Hutchison said, and the remaining trees were left damaged with broken branches.

Hutchison said he was pleasantly surprised to return from winter travels to find little vandalism to trees in general or to trees and shrubs in planters at the Dietz Street parking lot.

Hutchison said tree-planting has been underway for about a decade and probably no trees will be planted this spring. However, he is looking for help mulch the current population and said interested volunteers may call him at 433-2236.

Also, the Environmental Board will have a retreat May 10 to discuss duties set forth in the City Charter and topics stemming from the recent Oneonta Sustainability Summit, Hutchison said.

Area residents and guest speakers at the March 1 summit reviewed local assets and concerns and discussed options to preserve and promote resources and the environmental and economic welfare. 

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