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Neighbor to Neighbor: Pruning volunteers save borough street trees

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Laws have been made to protect street trees in particular. This has been done to reflect the valuable asset they are to the community in general, and to whatever property is nearby. Properly maintained, they add beauty, provide cooling shade during warm weather, and clean the air of many toxins that might otherwise be harmful to those with breathing difficulties.We've all seen street trees whose roots have been chopped off illegally for sidewalk repair instead of requesting root pruning by proper Department of Parks and Recreation authorities. Likewise, illegal posting of signs on trees not only damage the plant but trash the appearance of the community. Even worse, the lack of skill of drivers in or through our areas takes a very high toll on our tree population. Along some of our main streets, we see multiple small street trees mowed down one after the other. Larger trees bear the damage, often still standing, but still victims with a greatly shortened life. Our roads, for the sake of all concerned, should not be considered raceways. Please, drivers, slow down and drive more cautiously. We want you, (and the rest of us), to stay safe and live productive lives.People are not the only sources of tree damage. Some years ago, the Asian Longhorned Beetle reared its ugly head, damaging a variety of trees in our area and across the country. Stringent measures forbidding disposal and transportation of tree trimmings with regular garbage were enforced, with the result that progress is being made toward protecting those trees remaining after the destruction of a great many others and at a very high cost. Currently, we are also faced with other infestations, such as wasp galls attacking oak and dogwood trees. Weather damage is also an ongoing problem.Luckily, many of our elected officials are proponents of environmental issues, with protection of trees high on their list. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's proposed "Million TreesNYC" project is supported by Queens Borough President Helen Marshal, who will be hosting one of several workshops by New York City Releaf on March 20, 2008 at 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Borough Hall. These workshops will, no doubt, be of particular interest to supporters of tree protection, essentially through volunteer involvement and/or financial support.Before I knew about these workshops, I was invited to participate in budget hearings at Borough Hall on Feb. 19. Although I dread speaking in public, the work of the Department of Parks and Recreation and that of the volunteer group, Queens Coalition for Parks and Green Spaces (and other parks related volunteer groups) is so important, I chose to speak on behalf of the Queens Coalition for Parks and Green Spaces.The panel that hears these annual appeals is hosted by Helen Marshall and is a wonder to me. These very patient, attentive folks sit all day long, listening to a multitude of appeals for support and funding, supposedly three minutes in length, sometimes well into the night. Most of the speakers spoke well, which must have eased their situation a little. But my speech, although within the time limit, must have been hard to hear because, added to my usual nervousness, I had just broken my eyeglasses, which made me breathe even harder. At any rate, I had a story to tell, and with apologies to the panel, it was told.The Queens Coalition for Parks and Green Spaces now numbers more than 400 volunteer groups, many of which have volunteer members who have taken and graduated from the Trees New York tree pruning courses. Graduates are approved to prune street trees from the ground. A few are also permitted to prune trees as climbing pruners, but these are few and far between. Pruners have, generally, supplied their own tools, tool maintenance supplies, and material to bundle the pruned limbs. Most volunteer pruners find they are limited in their efforts when they cannot reach tree limbs damaged by large trucks, storms, etc., when they are overhead. The answer would be tree pole saws, which many volunteered don't have and which are sometimes difficult to buy during dormant months. I was recently quoted as price of $189 for a Ryabi gas pole saw and the manual type pole saw I sought was not yet available. As a result, I could not present any real dollar request, but only hope the budget will provide at least some amount for supplies that the QCPGS tries to give to volunteers short of tools they really need. I can attest that it is not easy to transport all the tools and other paraphernalia needed to prune street trees. We carry or use a shopping cart to transport saws, hand clippers and loppers as well as antiseptic that must be applied after each tree is pruned to each tool used so disease is not spread from tree to tree. We must handle the branches with twine and then notify Parks of the bundle for pickup. All this is part of the education process. We hope we have helped convince at least some people to join the army of those who are willing to help with this very important work.

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