The Red Hook Way, Part I: Stellar Tree Commission

by Brenda Cagle, Red Hook Councilwoman

Q: What do you call a highly functioning, well-informed, enthusiastic tree Committee? 
A: The Town of Red Hook Tree Commission (TC)

Who cares
The Red Hook Tree Commission worked with young community volunteers on planting at the Town of Red Hook Recreation Park. They renovated five tree lawns with 17 new trees. The Boy Scouts and the Linden Avenue Middle School environmental club, WHO CARES, helped plant. Photos Courtesy Red Hook Tree Commission

This amazing group of seven people is “doing it by the book” and more. Led by chairperson Nancy Guski, a retired elementary school teacher, the committee is comprised of a landscape professional, a former planning board member, another retired teacher, two retired dentists, and a nature lover and eagle expert. All participate according to their talents and time but the key is that they ALL participate.

 ~Tree City, Inventory, Forestry Plan~
A Tree City for nine years, the Town (of course the TC did all the work) was awarded a DEC Urban Forestry grant to plant trees and conduct a street tree inventory (more about that in the next post). After the inventory was completed, they used the results to develop a Forestry Management Plan. See the plan here

arbor day poster contest winners
Arbor Day Poster contest winners at Mill Road Elementary

~Arbor Day Celebration~
For their Arbor Day celebration, they begin weeks before Arbor Day working with teachers and students at Mill Road Elementary School to bring a tree-wise curriculum to grades  K-5. It doesn’t hurt that the committee member responsible for this activity, Eleanor Friery, once taught at Mill Road School. The two-week-long curriculum culminates in a seedling planting in the school’s garden and a poster contest with about 500 students participating.  Winners from each grade level receive tree-themed books as prizes. As if this wasn’t enough, later in the school year the committee members staff the Tree Identification station at the school’s Bio-Blitz.

Red Hook Tree Commission members led 3rd graders in a tree ID activity during their school's BioBlitz
Red Hook TC members led 3rd graders in a tree ID activity during their school’s Bio-Blitz

~Role as Advisory Committee~
As the town board liaison to the TC, I can say that the Town Board especially appreciates the TC’s work as an advisory committee. With their well-researched information, the TC has become a respected go-to committee for trusted information when town issues involve trees.  Initially the TC kept alert for talk of landscape plans, tree removal, tree maintenance needs and often provided unsolicited comments. Now, although they still remain vigilant for any tree-related happenings, they are the ones who are approached for advice. They have worked hard to gain this trust. They thoroughly research any information they provide and present it in a non-threatening way. They regularly give reports of their activities to the town board and promptly respond to even the smallest tree issue that a resident might have.

Below are portions of TC advisory comments addressed to the planning board that show their thoroughness and knowledge.

(1) We are very encouraged by the diversity of the tree selection. The proposed 7’ tree lawns are preferable to 6’ as it provides more soil volume. The soil requirements for some of the trees differ as noted in the specific comments for each tree noted below. All the trees sited for street trees are considered large trees (maturing at greater than 30’ tall) and will need the room for roots and canopy. Installing new sidewalks would make it easier to use structural soil which could add to the vigor and life span of the street trees. There is some caution concerning a monoculture on each street.

(2) We made three visits to the site and offer the following information and observations:

* We were encouraged to see that 21 trees were selected to be conserved.

* Seven trees will be removed as a result of road re-alignment.

* We did have some difficulty locating some of the trees.

* Of particular interest are the two large oak trees which will be conserved.  One has a 40-inch diameter and one has a 36-inch diameter. As we have stated in the past, mature trees do a great deal to assist in stormwater interception.  A 24-inch oak can intercept 3,455 gallons of water a year (iTree Design).

 ~Tree Ordinance~
To further illustrate how much this committee is valued by our town government, there recently was such an interest in membership that we adopted a new law increasing the number of members on the TC from five to seven! All volunteer groups should be this lucky. The town code on trees can be found here.

In short, the Tree Commission has reached out to the community and the community has embraced them in return. Our school, residents, government, and of course OUR TREES have all benefited from their dedication and hard work.



3 thoughts on “The Red Hook Way, Part I: Stellar Tree Commission”

  1. So proud of the Region 3 Releafers – Nancy Guski & Brenda Cagle! Not only are they assets to their local tree commission, but they are key to our regional Releaf efforts! Thank you for all the time, knowledge and effort that you both put in to promoting NYS’s trees!

  2. Thank you Brenda for your wonderful support. I feel very lucky to be part of such a hard working group of volunteers.
    Nancy Guski

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