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Asharoken marks Arbor Day with Village Hall tree plantings

Asharoken Mayor Greg Letica, left, and Marty Cohen,

Asharoken Mayor Greg Letica, left, and Marty Cohen, chairman of the village conservation board, with a newly planted river birch tree in front of Asharoken Village Hall on Saturday, April 30, 2016. Credit: Steve Pfost

A 10-foot-tall river birch — able to thrive despite salt spray and prized for its unusual salmon-colored bark — now waves a greeting to all who visit Asharoken’s village hall.

And a new 8-foot-tall Colorado blue spruce might have a recurring role in the village’s Christmas celebrations.

The two trees were stars at Saturday’s Arbor Day celebration in the western Suffolk village.

In 2012, superstorm Sandy destroyed the old village hall and took out “an awful lot of trees,” Asharoken Mayor Gregory Letica said.

He thanked the state Department of Environmental Conservation for a $1,000 grant that paid for the trees and 100 pitch pine seedlings that were given out to about 30 residents, including Carole Casamassini of Asharoken.

“I’m actually going to plant it somewhere that I can watch it,” she said.

If any of the pine seedlings were left over, village police officer Syd Lynn planned to claim one.

“I’m going take a pitch and pitch it a home,” he said.

Even trees that Sandy did not uproot never recovered from the storm’s leaf-killing sprays of saltwater, said Marty Cohen, chairman of the village conservation board, which issues permits to residents whose trees must be removed because they have toppled or grown too close to their homes.

“One tree on our property — for 3 1⁄2 years it hung on, but now it’s starting to go,” he said.

The river birch is a particularly fast-grower; it can add two feet to its height in a year, experts said. The spruce likely will grow a bit more slowly.

But it might not be too long before both of Ashroken’s newest and tallest residents tower over the new two-story elevated village hall.

“I’m happy to see a new tree life rather than a tree death,” Cohen said.

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