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City seeks national designation as Tree City

Alderman Andrew D. Chapman proposed last week that the city should pass a tree ordinance to qualify for designation as a Tree City USA.

The National Arbor Day Foundation designates municipalities for the Tree City program that have a forestry budget of at least $2 per resident. They also must have a tree board or department, a tree care ordinance and observe Arbor Day on the last Friday in April.

Chapman, R-4th Ward, said Lockport shouldn't have much trouble complying with the requirements.

As for the $2 per capita forestry budget, "We blow that away," he said. The city's forestry budget for 2010 is $150,000. Two dollars per resident would be $44,000.

Corporation Counsel John J. Ottaviano said the city has an ancient, dormant tree board and law. "It says you can't plant willow trees on Willow Street," he told the Council.

Chapman has drawn up a new law that would create a five-member tree board, comprising an alderman, the Highways and Parks superintendent, and three residents to be appointed by the mayor.

Their job would be to create an annual plan for planting, pruning and maintaining trees and shrubs in parks, along streets and in other public areas.

The ordinance specifies 25 species of trees that would be permitted to be planted along streets, ranging from crabapples and redbuds to sycamores and sugar maples.

The terms require small trees along streets to be planted at least 30 feet apart. Medium-sized trees would require 40-foot separations, and large trees, 50 feet. Street trees would not be permitted within 10 feet of a fire hydrant or 35 feet of an intersection.

The city would be able to order private owners of trees overhanging streets to prune them so they don't block street lights, and to remove dead, diseased or dangerous trees.

Chapman said Lockport's trees are one of the city's main attractions.

"We have so many magnificent trees," he said. "We have an American beech on Pine Street; I think it's one of the largest specimens in America."

A few years ago, the city insisted on adjustment of a state plan to widen South Transit Street to protect an enormous copper beech tree.

Ottaviano said the city could use some new trees. "We've been cutting for 15 years and not replacing. Trees keep a city 5 degrees cooler," he said.

Alderman Jack L. Smith Jr., D-2nd Ward, said he received a letter recently from a high school student who insisted that more trees would reduce crime.

"The more oxygen in the air, the better thought processes work," Smith said he was told.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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