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Village in Smithtown to inventory, identify invasive trees

Judy Ogden, a Head of the Harbor trustee

Judy Ogden, a Head of the Harbor trustee and a landscape designer, will help conduct a tree inventory in the village. Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin

Head of the Harbor will use a $50,000 New York State grant to inventory thousands of trees along village roads, identifying those that may be invasive or vulnerable to storms.

Stands of oak, beech and hickory make up much of the native population, though storms in the past six years have damaged or killed some specimens that began growing in the 19th century, said trustee Judy Ogden, a landscape designer who is also the village’s volunteer highway commissioner.

"There’s great value to maintaining and preserving these trees," Ogden said in a phone interview. "They’re really important for deterring erosion, filtering and slowing down the water that runs to the harbor" in rainstorms with enough pace and volume that it has undermined some driveways in the village.

Starting next year, specialists working with the village’s Highway Department will use GPS to locate and calipers to measure the trunks of trees in the right of way, which can extend more than a dozen feet on each side of the village’s 20 road miles, with special attention to the steep slopes that come close to meeting the roadway in some areas.

Dead or rotted trees may be marked for removal; those that are salvageable may just get a pruning. New trees may be planted, including black tupelo and flowering dogwood, as workers have done outside Village Hall in recent years.

Workers may also remove invasive species like Norway maple and woody vines like Japanese honeysuckle and an invasive wisteria that kills trees by twisting itself around their trunks until they cut through bark, an act known as girdling.

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos announced the grant on Dec. 18, part of $1.4 million awarded for urban forestry projects across the state. Head of the Harbor was the only Long Island awardee. Past Long Island grant winners include Rockville Centre, Huntington, the Sisters of St. Joseph in Brentwood and the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Nassau County.

Jeff Wernick, a DEC spokesman, wrote in an email that agency officials were impressed by the village’s outreach and education efforts with partners, such as Harbor Country Day School and Avalon Nature Preserve, a major landholder in the village. Together, they have organized Arbor Day tree planting demonstrations, a school adopt-a-tree program and another program that encourages students to design and place tree identification signs.

Head of the Harbor’s tree work in 2018 earned a Tree City USA designation. The program, sponsored by the National Arbor Day Foundation in cooperation with the USDA Forest Service and state forestry agencies, provides technical assistance and other benefits for urban forestry, and may entitle participants to some advantages in competitive forestry grants.

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