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Westhampton maintains Tree City USA designation
Before Heather Amster addressed the small group gathered at Westhampton Beach Village Hall on Thursday, she looked beyond it and admired the green grass, freshly trimmed shrubbery and willowy trees.
Amster, acting regional forester for the Department of Environmental Conservation, joined the village for the fifth straight year at its Arbor Day ceremony. She also gave the village an award for maintaining its designation as a Tree City USA, a program administered by the DEC and the National Arbor Day Foundation.
This is the village’s 24th year earning the distinction.
“This is a great village,” she said. “You just look out and you see all the greenery, all the trees. And every Arbor Day, without fail, they plant a new tree.”
There are 12 tree cities on Long Island, but Amster said Westhampton Beach is one of the most consistent and long-running participants in the program, which requires municipalities to follow strict guidelines for planting and preserving a variety of trees each year.
Village Mayor Conrad Teller said this year’s tree was planted before the ceremony and away from village hall in a spot officials thought was too empty. The village’s Department of Public Works planted a Purple Fountain Weeping Beech tree at the nearby Mortimer Park.
Westhampton Beach High School teacher Jok Kommer and his students, members of a group called CURE, Classmates United in Restoring the Environment, also spoke at the ceremony.
Olivia Percoco, 16, of East Moriches, said planting a tree has a dual purpose -- it’s good for the environment, and it’s good for people.
“It’s an emotional, almost spiritual connection we have with our environment,” she said, before reading the poem “Planting a Tree,” by Charles Pack.
Teller accepted the village’s award and read the village’s “Arbor Day Proclamation,” which outlines the village’s commitment to planting and maintaining trees. In it, the proclamation states that the village will “continue in its tree-planting ways and gladden the hearts and well being of present and future generations.”
Amster said the planting of a tree and seeing new life in the village keeps spirits high.
“These are tough times,” she said. “I’ve seen a crowd here at this ceremony in other years. Maybe people are working longer hours or working a second job. But we’re here, and the village is here, and we’re committed to planting trees.”