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What kind of tree is growing in front of your house? Tonawanda can tell you

What kind of tree is growing in front of your house?

Maybe it's a crabapple, but is it a prairifire crabapple or snowdrift crabapple? An English oak or a bur oak? A flowering cherry or a crimson pointe plum?

The Town of Tonawanda counted a total of 28,001 trees, including 30 varieties, growing on town property in a recently completed tree inventory there.

A digital map the town created lets the public find out what type of trees are in front of houses on town streets or at other sites in Tonawanda. There's everything from fruit and oak to lilac and the Asian zelkova. The town's inventory also includes the height and diameter of each tree.

Town of Tonawanda Forestry Division workers prune a large silver maple tree on Dorset Drive in the town on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017. (John Hickey/Buffalo News)

Examples of the rarest variety in the town, the Kentucky coffee tree, are planted on Princeton Boulevard, according to town forestry division foreman David DiNatale.

DiNatale said that years ago they discovered that more than 50 percent of the trees on town property were maple trees, especially silver maples, which were planted because they are fast growing trees.

But the town has made a concerted effort to plant a variety of trees - now it has more than 30 varieties - so that when a specific disease or insect attacks a certain variety, such as the emerald ash borer beetle, the rest of the town's trees are not wiped out, forestry supervisor Jack Schifferli said.

Tonawanda received a $49,697 grant from the state Department of Environmental Conservation to conduct its tree inventory. Other Buffalo area communities that received DEC money to conduct inventories are North Tonawanda, Newstead, Lancaster and the Erie County parks system, including Ellicott Creek and Elma Meadows.

The City of Buffalo has maintained its own tree inventory since 2001 and it has more than 68,000 trees.

Tonawanda's tree inventory, which was completed earlier this month after a three-year mapping project, accounted for 22,696 trees on town streets and 5,305 in town parks, said Schifferli, who has been with the town's forestry department for over 30 years.

Students from SUNY Buffalo State College's geography and planning program aided the town in completing the inventory. Schifferli said the town could not have done the job without the students' help.

In 2006 the October Surprise storm killed an estimated 57,000 trees across the Buffalo area, including 8,500 in Tonawanda and the Village of Kenmore, but through re-treeing efforts and the work of volunteers, most of those trees have been replaced over the past decade.

When that storm happened, FEMA wanted to cut down all of the damaged trees in Tonawanda, Schifferli said, but Schifferli said he and (Highway Superintendent) Bill Swanson said, "Forget it."

"We said if we prune these properly we can start new life and new branches. A lot of these trees came back," said Schifferli. "We saved thousands of trees."

After the storm in 2006, Re-Tree Town of Tonawanda volunteers started a small volunteer tree farm, leasing property for $1 at the Boys and Girls Club of the Northtowns on Edgar Avenue. Trees are raised there to plant in low-income and industrial areas. The club's youth plant and maintain the trees.

"Our trees are an asset of over $90 million," said Schifferli. "We are a walkable community with our sidewalks and we have the benefits of our trees."

The Town of Tonawanda is one of 111 cities in New York and thousands across America designated by the Arbor Foundations as a Tree City USA, signifying the municipality has made a commitment to its urban canopy. The town has been designated a Tree City for 19 years, while Amherst has had the designation for 20 years and Buffalo for 27.

Schifferli said the town was the only municipality in Western New York to receive a "Growth Award" from the Arbor Day Foundation for the past nine years because of its efforts in planning,  managing and public participation in tree planting.

"We have a very aggressive pruning and removal process. I will not remove a tree unless it's dead. We also inject our tree for the emerald ash borer beetle," said Schifferli.

Search the digital map for trees on Town of Tonawanda property. Zoom in and click on green circles to get information about specific trees.

Town of Tonawanda Forestry Division worker Bill Tully carries a piece of a large silver maple tree they were trimming on Dorset Drive in the town on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017. (John Hickey/Buffalo News)



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