Letter to the Editor: Cut Trees, Save Lives

"There is a belief among some vocal inhabitants of these parts that every tree is sacred, and cutting arouses emotional outbursts from that quarter."

Editor's Note: The tree that tragically fell on the father/daughter pair on the border of Irvington and Tarrytown near Sunnyside on Sept. 8 was actually just a large limb, but it nonetheless made enough of an impact to seriously injure a child.

The 11-year-old girl, of Irvington, was still considered critically injured as of the last update the New York State Park Police offered on Sept. 12. There have been no further updates on her status since. She was taken to Westchester Medical Center where she was on a ventilator at the time.

One Irvington resident who took a photo of the fallen limb offered some back story on the property and a cry for better tree maintenance. Francis Goudie of North Broadway shares this:

The large branch in the photo fell about 100 yards north of West Sunnyside Lane. I'd guess that it was at least 8" in diameter, so it is substantial. It must weigh hundreds of pounds, and it looks like it fell from 25' or so. In the same storm, a very large old tree toppled across the aqueduct just south of Meadowbrook Drive, about 100' south of this incident. That tree also had poor structure.

The property adjacent to the aqueduct belongs to Westchester County, purchased from the Unification Church for use as passive park land, but there has been no visible maintenance of the trees on the property for years. Trees along a right of way tend to grow into the light created by the clear path. Whether it's the Sawmill Parkway, a powerline or a footpath, the horizontal growth of branches out to the sunlight causes weak structure, and should be controlled through a tree trimming program. Con Ed knows it, and the authorities at the DOT know it. That property has been unattended for decades, and the trees are badly in need of attention: many snags and deadfalls, unhealthy overcrowding, stripped out undergrowth from deer predation. We'll see more of this if we don't start taking control of tree growth. Not every tree belongs where it happened to sprout.

Unfortunately, there is a belief among some vocal inhabitants of these parts that every tree is sacred, and cutting arouses emotional outbursts from that quarter. A tragic event like this reminds us of why certain procedures were initiated long ago - so long ago that the reasons for them are forgotten, then emotion substituted for reason, and the practices were discontinued. 

_ Francis Goudie 

North Broadway, Irvington

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