The first of more than a thousand severely damaged curbside trees in Amherst began falling Wednesday.
But the fate of nearly 7,000 other trees damaged in the October Surprise snowstorm will likely rest with an arborist whom the town will hire next week to double-check hundreds of earlier inspections to see how many trees might be saved after all.
"I will do my best to see that no tree that can survive will be removed," Amherst Town Supervisor Satish B. Mohan said.
Residents generally agreed that the trees now coming down in Amherst should be removed.
"It's not worth saving at this point," Mary Gore said of the linden tree cut down in front of her Hendricks Boulevard home.
"I'm not going to fuss about it. I trust the [inspectors'] judgment. That tree is upwards of 50 years old, and the bark was stripped from it during the storm," said Gore, who returned to care for her mother in the home where Gore grew up some 70 years ago.
But not everybody is happy about the prospect of losing their curbside trees.
A green ash tree in front of Martin Cavanagh's home on Windermere Boulevard is supposed to be cut down. He said it should be given more time despite being listed in critical condition.
"The tree is starting to adapt," Cavanagh said. "It has been growing all these leaves lately and looks great. I think they should give it a chance. Some of these trees look bad, but it's going to look worse when they're gone."
But he's glad another tree in front of his home -- a silver maple -- will soon come down.
"This tree is a hazard if it falls," said Cavanagh, who has lived on Windermere Boulevard for 20 years. "It looks like a burnt matchstick."
Melissa Wanzer, also a Windermere resident, worries the cutting will ruin the neighborhood's aesthetic appeal.
"You kind of get attached to the trees," Wanzer said. "I think they add something to the community. We moved here because we thought it was a pretty street."
Wanzer said she hopes the town gives more time to some trees marked with orange ribbons, the sign the trees are scheduled to come down.
"Some of the trees that are on the margin could still stay," she said. "I just think people look around and see a lot of orange, and they get worried."
Mohan encouraged town residents who are worried about curbside trees in front of their homes to contact him and Highway Superintendent Robert Anderson.
"Anything regarding trees, call my office," Mohan said. "We should know about any problems, the sooner the better."
As recently as last month, more than 8,000 trees were slated to come down in Amherst. Town officials cited an October deadline for federal cleanup aid, saying they had to take down the trees as quickly as possible if the town was to be reimbursed for the cutting.
But residents said the town was rushing to cut down the 8,000-plus trees -- many of which residents thought might survive -- just to get the Federal Emergency Management Agency reimbursement, which is projected at $3.3 million. They want some trees to be given a chance to survive in order to preserve their quality of life as well as their property values.
Wednesday, Mohan said the prospect of federal aid would not influence the fate of the nearly 7,000 damaged trees getting the reprieve.
"We are not basing our decisions on the FEMA deadline," Mohan said.
The Town Board is expected to hire an arborist at its meeting Monday. That arborist will review 10 percent of the nearly 7,000 trees in poor condition but not considered a high risk to public safety if left standing.
If the new arborist generally agrees with the earlier assessments to cut down the trees, then all of the nearly 7,000 trees will likely come down, without the arborist looking at every single tree, Mohan said.
But if the arborist believes a significant number of the trees can survive, the town will rethink what to do about the trees, Mohan said.
There will be no reprieve for a thousand of the most dangerous trees that began coming down Wednesday. A total of 103 of the trees are dead, 743 are listed in critical condition, and the the rest are in poor condition.
Earlier this week, Mohan signed an agreement with Erie County to allow a county-hired contractor to cut 1,063 trees in the town.
The cost to remove these trees is expected to run between $250,000 and $300,000, which the town will pay, Mohan said.
Anderson said the contractor's rates to cut the trees are the lowest he has seen.
The cutting of the 1,063 trees should not take more than two weeks, town officials said.
Anderson stressed that his department is not cutting the trees.
"The Town of Amherst is not doing anything with this," other than monitoring the tree-cutting crews, Anderson said.
The crews began in Eggertsville. By the time they are finished, they will have cut trees across the town, mainly in Eggertsville, Snyder and Main-Transit.
Some 538 trees on the condemned list are green ash trees. Nearly 200 Norway maples and 129 thornless honey locust trees also are being cut.
The streets with the most trees being cut down in the next two weeks are South Woodside Lane and Seabrook Drive, both located in the Main-Transit area. Each street will lose roughly two dozen trees.
Primrose Lane and Glen Oaks Drive in Swormville -- the third- and fourth-hardest hit streets -- are losing just under two dozen trees.
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