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Many in Amherst welcome tree removal

For months, Amherst officials dreaded the thought of tree-loving residents blocking the streets as crews struggled to remove trees damaged by last October's freak storm.

But it hasn't happened. And Monday, Amherst Highway Superintendent Robert Anderson was all smiles.

Not only was the storm cleanup ahead of schedule, but many residents were clamoring for more damaged trees to come down, he said.

Residents "are calling our office and wondering why their tree isn't being taken down," Anderson told Town Board members at a work session.

"It's completely the opposite of what we thought would happen," he said.

Earlier this year, Supervisor Satish B. Mohan began warning that residents might rebel when the town began the process of removing some 8,000 storm-damaged trees from alongside streets and highways.

Ransom Oaks residents were among the first to complain when crews felled rows of trees lining their neighborhood streets.

Although the trees belong to the town, many residents take a strong interest in their well being. "People love their trees," Mohan said.

The fears prompted officials to form a citizen advisory board and to hire an arborist to evaluate trees that were slated for removal because they pose a danger to nearby homes and residents.
Amherst also arranged to piggyback on a county contract the removal of more than 1,000 of the trees deemed to be safety hazards. But as crews moved through neighborhoods to remove the trees, residents began asking for more, not fewer, to be cut down.

Anderson said residents had already added about 106 trees to his original list of 1,063 trees that had to come down under federal emergency management guidelines.

"There are a lot of satisfied residents, even though they don't want to lose their trees," Anderson said.

With the permission of Town Board members, Anderson said he would like to allow for about 200 trees to be added to the town's "must remove" list.

Even if the additional trees are not eligible for federal reimbursements, Anderson said the town should approve their removal because of the low prices the county's contractor is charging.

The only problem is that residents are also asking for tree stumps to be quickly removed and for town officials to immediately plant new trees -- work that is not yet eligible for federal reimbursement funding.


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