Urban forest study presented to Town Board

Cheektowaga Trees (Jim Herr/Cheektowaga Chronicle)
Cheektowaga Trees (Jim Herr/Cheektowaga Chronicle)

CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. – The results of a $50,000 grant funded study to aid Cheektowaga in maintaining and enhancing their urban forest was presented at a public hearing Tuesday night.

The study was commissioned to show the current state of the town’s urban forest, how to protect and nurture what we have and what we need to do long term to double the canopy over the next twenty years.

In the summer of 2013, 16,302 street trees on town controlled right-of-ways were inventoried.  The town owned tree canopy within controlled right-of-ways is worth $19.6 million.  624 trees were inventoried at Town Park after the emerald ash borer invasion.  The replacement cost for the trees in Town Park is $3.3 million.

“What we learned from this exercise is that 60% of our trees are Maples.  So we have to be concerned about the threat of the Asian Longhorned Beetle. If we should have to deal with that, we have to be prepared, because we don’t have the fiscal resources,” said Cheektowaga Town Planner Daniel J. Ulatowski.

Larvae from the beetle can cut off the flow from vascular tissue and essentially girdle the tree.  Losing 60% of the town’s canopy would be detrimental to the community financially and in natural benefits those trees provide.

The trees inventoried account for intercepting 25.6 million gallons of storm water annually which saves taxpayers almost $1 million dollars.

One way to safe guard the future is to have homeowners plant additional trees on their property.  But Ulatowski says many residents are fearful of planting new trees because they dealt with the damaged sidewalks and sewer line intrusions caused by sliver maples planted long ago.

“Those trees are not being planted in our community.  Those are trees that should have never been planted in our community or on any other street in our society.  They were not a good street tree those silver maples.  But what we have learned is that we have to retain those for as long as we can because they provide us huge storm water benefits,” added Ulatowski.

The study outlines different varieties of trees from small, medium and large. Additional tree plantings offer aesthetic, environmental and economic benefits.

Ulatowski also recommends that a centralized point person be designated to help with communication between the four town departments that deal with trees in the town.

“We have engineering that’s putting bid specs together for a private party to plant the trees, highway is responsible for maintaining our trees, building inspections is out there trying to enforce tree preservation, so, we need someone to help us communicate better and look to the future on how we deal with this.”

“The plan is not a ridged plan.  It gives us a blue print for us to have a discussion moving forward and it is meant to put something in writing that’s going to surpass everyone on this board.  Your terms could be over in four years.  This is meant for future leaders to hold our feet to the fire,” said Ulatowski.

If you would like to provide input before the final draft is considered for adoption by the Town Board email Town Planner Dan Ulatowski or Art Traver.