To the editor,

 I am writing to protest the decimation of the trees fronting the businesses on West First Street.

My wife is the nominal captain of the Oswego Tree Stewards and also served on the Tree Advisory Board (TAB) until her resignation two days ago, this precipitated by the wholesale destruction of these 22 trees. Three other board members also resigned. I have observed her growing disaffection first hand under the current city administration, seen her frustration and disappointment due to lack of attendance from the political component of the TAB.  

“How’d it go?”

“No one showed up, just Jonathan and I.”

In her letter of resignation she mentioned being bewildered and disgusted.

The reason our trees were chopped down? The councilor alleged that shop owners objected to the tree litter. The sidewalks were affected. Tree roots were clogging sewer lines. Yet a canvassing of the shop owners found only two objectors to the trees with the vast majority of them in favor of having the street trees.

Now we are to have Japanese lilacs planted instead of the beautiful maturing trees. These will be glorified flowering shrubs. (Presumably their roots won’t bother the drains.) They will be pretty and also pretty useless in environmental terms. Concerned TAB members would not have condoned this, but who cares?

A word about the Tree Stewards (of which I am not one) — these folks have taken it upon themselves to tend the city’s trees for the past 15 years. This year almost 500 volunteer hours were spent between sourcing, planting and tending the trees. For this effort they receive no remuneration, no pay, no perks. Until the last couple of years they purchased their own tools, for which there is currently no secure storage nor easy transport of the very long pruning saws to their work site each week. They were provided a meeting space that has suddenly and unexplainably been locked. Either the scheduling person or the mayor has ignored this need, or both. Who cares?

The Tree Stewards care, and have turned philosophy into action as best they are able. Trees grow even in a poor political climate. Under the former administration, there was attendance and cooperation among the TAB members. The current Commissioner of the DPW demonstrably does not care about trees since he does not attend.

My step son, Jonathan Ashline, also is both an active Tree Steward and served on the TAB until two days ago. He is running for councilor of the Third Ward. As such, if elected his responsibility will include the aforementioned West First Street.

In a conversation with Kevin Hill, the current Third Ward councilor, he stated that Jonathan was using the trees as a political maneuver to discredit himself. If so, it certainly has been a long term ploy since Jonathan has been an active Tree Steward and member of the TAB for over four years, out every Saturday pruners in hand. Were he the councilor you can bet he would have fought to keep the trees. Someone has to fight for the trees.

So, we are sad, but never fear, the Tree Stewards will continue to nurture and try to protect the city’s trees because it’s all about stewardship. The trees don’t belong to the city, they belong to your children, and their children and it never was about politics, although perhaps it is time it becomes so.

William Dawnstar


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