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Session to target trees on agenda.

Byline: Steven H. Foskett Jr.

WORCESTER -- City Council discussion Tuesday night suggested that removal of trees infested by, and susceptible to, the Asian longhorned beetle in certain areas of Green Hill Park will move forward.

"We need to move on, and go forth with the plan,'' Mayor Joseph M. Petty said.

There will be a meeting Thursday at the Grill on the Hill restaurant on the Green Hill golf course about the removals, but it will be mostly to explain to residents what is going to happen, and to inform private landowners who have trees targeted by the cooperative state and federal effort of what their options are, City Manager Edward M. Augustus Jr. said.

The removal of slightly more than 200 infested trees in the park will be accompanied by a full host-tree removal in those specific areas. The hosts are trees that might not be infested, but are trees the invasive species seeks out.

The three areas are near Dixon Avenue, the Lincoln Street Interstate 290 ramps, and the wooded area across from homes on Denmark Street. Chemical treatments are planned, but for trees within the park proper.

The beetles infest the trees, ultimately killing them. First discovered in the city in 2008, it is believed to have arrived in shipping crates from China. The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the state Department of Conservation and Recreation have led a cooperative effort to eradicate the beetle from the city and surrounding towns that make up the 110-square-mile quarantine area. Officials say if the beetle spreads out deeper into New England, it could have devastating consequences for contiguous forests that stretch throughout the Northeast into Canada.

District 2 Councilor Philip Palmieri, however, didn't buy some of the numbers the USDA has put out. He questioned how the USDA could survey 5 million trees since 2008. He asked for a schedule that shows how those numbers were achieved. And he accused people who earlier in the meeting spoke in favor of the Green Hill removals -- including Greater Worcester Land Trust Executive Director Colin Novick, and Peggy Middaugh and Ruth Seward from the Worcester Tree Initiative -- of practicing more "political science'' than pure science.

Mr. Palmieri said the removals would have dire consequences on surrounding neighborhoods, particularly with runoff and erosion control. He said there have been inconsistencies surrounding the use of chemicals to inoculate the trees.

Ms. Seward said the closest thing to a guarantee that the beetles will not return to an infested area is host removal. She said inoculation of trees has not been proven to be 100 percent effective, and surveying also has its limits.

She said in Dodge Park, 62 trees were removed in 2009 because of an infestation without a full host removal. But subsequent surveys turned up more infested trees, to the point where a full host removal was the only option. Full host removal was also initially recommended for Green Hill Park several years ago, but that recommendation was not followed, Ms. Seward said.

Ms. Middaugh said 203 trees in Green Hill Park have been identified as infested. One tree had more than 100 exit holes, she said. It's highly likely more trees will be infested, she said. She recommended the city move forward with the removals.

"We are tree lovers,'' Ms. Middaugh said. "But this is not a time to make an emotional decision.''

Mr. Augustus said that as painful as the decision to remove the trees is, the city should "continue on the course we're on.''

He said seeking alternative solutions is delaying the inevitable, and could potentially allow the beetle to infest other areas. He said the community has been supportive when it comes to fighting the beetle. He said that after an outbreak was discovered in the fall on the edge of Green Hill Park property, 14 of 17 property owners gave permission to have host trees on their property removed.

Mr. Palmieri was not convinced. He pushed for more reports addressing various aspects of the beetle fight, and said councilors should go on site visits to get a real sense of what area the removals will encompass. He said proponents of the removals don't like to use the words clear-cutting, but said with an estimated 5,000 trees going away, the impact will be noticeable. He said the cooperative is essentially laying the blame for the Green Hill infestation on the city.

Besides the longhorned beetle, the other fight in the city these days is with snow. With patience wearing thin in some neighborhoods, councilors and city officials Tuesday night urged more of it. Mr. Petty urged residents to consider what the city had to do with clearing around 5 feet of snow in 10 days. As some motorists continued to slog through a grid-locked evening commute, Mr. Petty acknowledged there are still some issues. But he said that in general, the city has done a good job keeping up with the snow.

Mr. Augustus said the city intends on learning from mistakes made during the storm. He pointed to various efforts at getting the word out and said perhaps communication in the future could be improved. And he acknowledged that the city's efforts at keeping its own sidewalks clear after street-widening efforts sometimes pushed snow back onto them.

Paul Moosey, commissioner of public works and parks for the city, said technology is improving to where the city may at some point be able to offer residents a notification service when plows are scheduled to make a pass in their neighborhood.

Other councilors highlighted some complaints and compliments they received from residents. The discussion appeared to be prompted by a concern raised by Camille Nasrah of 1 Clarendon St. He said plows have piled snow too high near the corner of Clarendon and Plantation streets. It's dangerous for pedestrians and students, Mr. Nasrah said.

Mr. Palmieri said the pile should be removed, and said he has heard of similar situations across the city. He said it's atrocious.

"I hope we can resolve this problem,'' Mr. Palmieri said.

Contact Steven H. Foskett Jr. at sfoskett@telegram.com. Follow him on Twitter @SteveFoskettTG.
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Title Annotation:Local
Author:Foskett, Steven H., Jr.
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Feb 4, 2015
Words:1024
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