Residents express concern about acorns, branches

In a 19th-century poem, newspaper editor, writer and Philipstown resident George Pope Morris famously pleaded “woodman, spare that tree,” a majestic oak.

But Morris didn’t live in Nelsonville. Or in an age when trees sprout between paved sidewalks and streets.

“Touch not a single bough! In youth it sheltered me and I’ll protect it now,” Morris wrote in 1837 of his tree. So, “woodman, leave the spot. While I’ve a hand to save [it], thy axe shall harm it not.”

Somewhat less enamored, Nelsonville plans to cut down one on North Pearl Street, “because it drops acorns,” Trustee Dave Moroney confirmed at the board’s Feb. 21 meeting.

The village chose to act after a request made last September, in the height of acorn season, by Dave McCarthy and Danielle Pack McCarthy, who live next to the tree.

The controversial oak tree on North Pearl Street in Nelsonville (Photo by L.S. Armstrong)
The oak tree on North Pearl Street (Photo by L.S. Armstrong)

“Over the years, this tree has aged and dropped more and more acorns and large branches that have come down on our boys and our friends,” they wrote. “Our children have more than once rolled an ankle … and it has become a serious safety concern.”

They added that “even though we sweep this area every few days, there is no getting ahead” as the tree sheds, “many times, entire branches filled with acorns and leaves.” Photos they sent to the village attest to the tree’s output. It stands in the grass strip between the sidewalk and street across from Village Hall.

Mayor Chris Winward described it as “a healthy-ish tree” that “has outgrown the space between the curb and the sidewalk.”

Heidi Wendel, a resident who lives near North Pearl, expressed surprise at the oak’s fate. “Chop a tree down because it’s dropping acorns? I don’t get that at all,” she said, offering to collect the nuts to spare the tree. “It seems sad.”

The mayor replied that “it’s sad; I agree.” However, she explained, the village attorney had recommended the tree’s removal.

On Thursday (March 2), Winward said an arborist also has advised removing the oak because it has outgrown its narrow strip of grass. Its roots are likely to upend the sidewalk and failing to act “is just going to kick the problem down the road,” the mayor said.

“Nobody ever wants to take down a tree,” she said. She said the McCarthys have offered to provide a replacement, but that a new tree in the space may not be feasible.

Winward said on Feb. 21 that the situation suggests the village needs a tree policy to outline the responsibilities of the village, property owners and the state to “take out the guesswork” because, right now, “our laws are a little gray.”

Behind The Story

Type: News

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Armstrong was the founding news editor of The Current (then known as in 2010 and later a senior correspondent and contributing editor for the paper. She worked earlier in Washington as a White House correspondent and national affairs reporter and assistant news editor for daily international news services. Location: Cold Spring. Languages: English. Areas of expertise: Politics and government

6 replies on “Nelsonville Plans to Remove Tree”

  1. As I stated at the Nelsonville Village Board meeting, I think it is wrong to chop down a healthy oak tree because it drops acorns.

    In his book, The Nature of Oaks, Douglas Tallamy notes that “oaks support more life forms and interactions than any other tree genus in North America, sustaining everything from acorn-collecting woodpeckers to caterpillars that dazzle like jewels.” (I’m giving the village a copy, which I will leave at Village Hall.)

    Cutting down a healthy oak tree is wrong from an environmental and climate change perspective. As you will see when you read Tallamy’s book, we are so fortunate to have oak trees in our village. Each one has a huge root system that sponsors in-sect and fungal life, as well as insects in its bark and woody structure, and provides habitat for native birds (most of which subsist on insects from trees and shrubs, especially oaks).

    Acorns are the principal food source for many native birds and mammals. Come on, let’s do better than that as a village.

  2. Doug Tallamy explains how important oak trees are in this article. We have to start seeing the bigger picture. Leave the leaves and the acorns.

  3. For a $10 donation, the Arbor Day Foundation will send five flowering trees, five fast-growing Norway Spruces and two Crapemytles. (Or you can ask that trees be planted where needed.) The trees are 1-to-2-years old, 6-12 inches in height and 6 inches root to trunk. I’ve already offered the first set of 12 trees to my neighbors, friends and family, but if there any left over, happy to contribute to Nelsonville. P.S. Aren’t trees regularly trimmed or pruned to enforce their health?

  4. It’s sad that the tree has to be cut down if the only reason is it drops acorns. The benefit of street trees far outweigh the inconvenience of acorns dropping. Would it not be better to prune the tree? Using that reasoning sets up a precedence for the removal of other trees. Once one tree gets taken down for that reason, it opens the door for others to be removed. What happens when some one complains when a tree is dropping leaves, fruit or flower petals? Will the village remove those as well if a homeowner complains?

    If the tree is structurally sound, do not remove it. Trees lend character and charm to the streets in the village. They also provide shade and numerous other benefits for people and wildlife.

  5. Clearly the Village Board is soft if it’s going to be pushed around with that ridiculous argument [about acorns]. [via Facebook]

  6. It would be so great if The Current covered the regular proceedings of the Nelsonville Village Board. This article doesn’t reflect the range of issues our neighbors are dealing with, like much-needed sewer connections. Even small municipalities deal with big problems and real solutions.

    Foley is the mayor of Cold Spring.

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