Friday, June 29, 2012

Arbor Arousal

Amherst Public Shade Tree Committee Chair Hope Crolius, committee member Bob Irwin 

In their first meeting since the Amherst Public Shade Tree Committee became a stand alone entity, after 40 years toiling as a subcommittee of the Conservation Commission, Chair Hope Crolius came out swinging, questioning the rubber stamp routine of Tree Warden Alan Snow and the tactics of Town Manager John Musante who recently summoned her to a private meeting to address the "tone" of her committee.

Crolius rattled off a recent list of occasions where the Tree Warden ignored the tree affirming vote of the Shade Tree Committee, including Atkins Corner clearcutting, beautiful black walnuts in front of Hampshire College (that were later spared because of an easement trade by the college to the town) and most recently a huge, healthy 50 year old spruce on Railroad Street he allowed a housing management company that specializes in student rentals to whack for the convenience of a new driveway.

 Alan Snow, volunteer Tree Warden and professional DPW manager

Crolius observed that for the previous five years, when not employed by the town, Snow was an outsider who put the trees first; but now that he's wearing a different hat--Division Director, Tree and Grounds Amherst DPW--he is "no longer one of us."

A previous Town Manager appointed Snow to his unpaid position as Tree Warden and of course the current Town Manager is the boss of DPW director Guilford Mooring who oversees Snow. 

In a closed door meeting with Town Manager Musante, set up by Conservation Director Dave Ziomek (son of former Tree Warden Stan Ziomek) Crolius described a public relations cheerleading indoctrination session where he strongly suggested the committee "keep it positive," and consider "the big picture."

Musante boasted the town has big things to accomplish, thus the committee should not focus on doing battle for individual trees at UMass or the town owned Hawthorne sugar maples or the stately, rarely seen Camperdown Elm owned by Amherst College.
Ancient but healthy Camperdown Elm Amherst College Pratt Field

Committee member Nonny Burack responded to Crolius's report saying, "I'm very uncomfortable with the Town Manager's comments" and that they amounted to "almost a threat." She also pointed out "developers are going to laugh at you if you're overly positive."

The Public Shade Tree Committee plans to invite Town Manager Musante to attend one of their upcoming open public meetings. Apparently, being summoned to the woodshed works both ways.


Anonymous said...

Time for some reflection by the town manager, whose office is easier to leave than enter. At least he won't meet the same fate as these trees, but after another election or two, he might be asked by the Select Board to follow in his predecessor's footsteps.

Anonymous said...

You can't tell people to talk like politicians, who don't think like politicians.

LarryK said...

Yeah and still a tad too tied to the pre-Internet old ways of doing business, when secrecy was fairly easy to maintain.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the Public Shade Tree Committee should stick to its charge (copied, in its entirety, below)? If the chair feels that charge is too boring or too narrow, maybe should lobby to expand the charge, or resign?
UMass trees are not public shade trees, and the tree warden is not "one of them".

"The Committee advises and makes recommendations to the Tree Warden and the Select Board on matters involving public shade trees, including, but not limited to: the replacement of specific dead or dying trees, the species recommended for replacements, the planting of additional trees at specific locations and the species recommended, and the level of funding necessary to carry out these and other recommendations."

Anonymous said...

why can't the ladies in this town get their tone right?

LarryK said...

Committee charges change all the time, look at the "Committee on Homelessness" for instance.

On second thought, not a good example since the Select Board dissolved them for perceived uppityness.

Anonymous said...

The Town Manager is in absolutely no danger of losing his job.

Let's get real.

LarryK said...

Yeah, you do not die from a stubbed toe. But it does hurt like heck.

Anonymous said...

No, the town manager is in no danger of loosing his job when he can have the town police harass (and if necessary arrest) any and all critics.

Of course this makes Amherst no better than a third world banana republic, but hey....

And remember that the Constitution only says "advice & consent" of the Senate on appointments -- which is what we have seen with the SCOTUS appointments...

Anonymous said...

Compared to evicting the Boy Scouts from Kendrick Park, it's a hangnail.

Like the rest of the media these days, you don't put these stories in perspective.

LarryK said...

It's not just this incident, but the fact it is coming so close on the heels of the War Memorial Pool snafu.

Anonymous said...

"the fact it is coming so close on the heels of the War Memorial Pool snafu"

Please spare us!

Hope is quickly becoming the Carol Grey and Hwei-Ling Greeney of Shade Trees.*

And the pool is hardly a snafu--John Musante led the charge to actually get the pool open.

(*By the way, I don't understand how a Norwegian spruce--the one on Railroad Ave--is a shade tree. I thought shade trees are deciduous)

LarryK said...

"Led the charge"?

You really are a true believer.

Anonymous said...

Alan Snow is a nice guy, but why isn't it a conflict of interest to have him both as tree warden and DPW employee?

My understanding of the state ethics laws -- and town meeting member is explicitly exempted -- is that one may only hold one position at any given time. One can not be - for example - a teacher and member of the school board, or a police officer and member of the select board -- concurrently.

There have been cases where the police chief retired to become town manager and made a good one, may still have respectfully been called "chief" but no longer was a sworn officer -- having had to turn in his shield before taking the 2nd position.

Let's end this once and for all -- exactly what *IS* a "Tree Warden" in Massachusetts and is there or is there not a conflict of interest here?

I still say that the Alan Snow I know is such a tree hugger that any "deals" he may be making will wind up with a more heavily forested Amherst a decade from now. I would have clearcut all of Kellogg Avenue a decade ago -- they call those things Widowmakers for a reason!!! (And as Larry points out, one did fall last October - surprisingly because being half dead, it had so few leaves I am surprised there was enough snow on it to bring it down. And after a summer thunderstorm a few years earlier, I remember the 8700 volt transformer in the street -- cover popped off, PCBs likely everywhere -- because the wind (not lightning) took down another one.

Anonymous said...

One other thing -- and it was Alan that told me this -- note the two American Elms on North Pleasant Street in the vicinity of Skinner Hall and the LRGC tower. The streets of many New England cities and towns were lined with these trees - and then came the Dutch Elm disease.

The mistake that was made was simple -- if you only have one species of tree and something starts killing it, you have lost ALL your trees and not just some of them. A similar mistake is having all your trees the same age -- you get a Kellogg Avenue where the trees are all old, frail and dying at the same time.

Take the now-healthy 50-year-old Spruce tree -- lifespan of a spruce in an urban environment is 50-65 years -- less if it is blown over as with shallow roots and lacking breakable joints, where a Maple or Oak will loose a bough, the entire Spruce will come down.

So the developer has to do an inch-for-inch replacement -- measured I believe 4" off the ground, the sum diameters of the trees he is planting must match the diameter of the one he is cutting down. That is a deal for the town as all of THOSE trees then become protected and before long you have a whole lot more trees than you did before.

And Gerald Mooning is neither a jerk nor "from away" -- he lives here, doesn't he? He doesn't take pride in his trees?

LarryK said...

I believe Mr Mooring lives in Hadley and yes, he's probably hugged a tree or two in his lifetime.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:09 p.m.

Yes, John the Town Manager is sending out his jack-booted thugs to arrest his critics.

Please stay right where you are at the computer with your hallucinogens.

We do NOT need you out and about in the community.

The Ponziviller speaks... said...

"We do NOT need you out and about in the community"

Oh yes you do. I mean, otherwise you'd turn on each other, wouldn't you?