Parks Superintendent: No hope for ash trees

At the Garden City Board of Trustees meeting on July 21, Superintendent of Recreation & Parks Paul Blake delivered comments on the losing battle Long Island is facing against the Emerald Ash Borer invasive beetle species. 

Trustee Terry Digan noted that he had a conversation with Harder Tree Service, the contractor the Village of Garden City uses for tree removals as needed. He asked Blake to provide the full board and the public with an update on why some trees across Garden City may be in peril – the Emerald Ash Borer. The insect is a native species of Asia, and it was first found in the United States in the suburbs of Detroit in 2002. By 2014 it had spread to Somerset County, central New Jersey and then eastward into New York state.

“The insect gets into the feed stream and kills the tree. There is no pesticide that can kill this bug, there is no preventative and there is no cure. We anticipate that every ash tree in the village and on Long Island will eventually fall to this insect. We are now looking at the situation to remove somewhere between 100 and 200 ash trees,” Blake said.

The Recreation and Parks Department plans to have an agenda item for the Board of Trustees to consider soon, for either a contract bid or an emergency declaration to engage the ash tree removal services. According to Blake the tree removals for ash trees will be a concentrated effort over the next six to 18 months. 

Blake noted that the Parks Department staff has taken down close to 35 trees within the past month, and the scope of work to remove that many more exceeds current manpower in the department. 

After a question from Trustee Bruce Chester, Blake said the Parks Department has been taking down “the ones that we can.” The village staff tree crew is limited to work involved in taking down medium-sized trees but they can’t handle taking down ash trees found on the main thoroughfares in town.

Blake told the trustees there are approximately 19 ash trees on Washington Avenue, all of which are dead or dying and will be taken down. Another 11 ash trees are in the median of Nassau Boulevard and all of them are dead or dying. 

Another dozen are on Franklin Avenue, plus more ash trees on Clinton Road are apparently in the same condition and will be taken down. Another area with ash trees identified are along Main Avenue, with some more scattered throughout Garden City including a few on Meadow Street in the east section. 

“The trees along Washington, Clinton and Franklin are too big for our village crews to take down. That said we have taken down 35-36 ash trees in the last four weeks,” Blake noted.

He adds that an experiment is taking place in Texas with another, larger beetle being introduced because it is a predator that kills the Emerald Ash borer. There is a Texas park system implementing plans to introduce the predator. 

“I am going to let the good people in Texas try this one, and they can report on it. If we introduce that beetle and they then prey on oak trees it could be a catastrophe. It is a serious problem and the taking down of ash trees is the way we’ll have to address it,” he said. 

New surface for St. Paul’s Playground

Recreation & Parks Superintendent Blake spoke about an increase in the allocation of funding for replacing the safety surface at St. Paul’s Playground. Last Thursday the board was set to vote on an increase in the budget from $202,000 to $285,400, as the original budget was fixed at $202,000 based on an estimate from the eventual low bidder (Tuf Tek USA of Greenlawn). Their original estimate did not include the replacement of asphalt that has become apparent with this project, with about 2500 additional square feet of surfacing to complete. 

Blake said funding for the higher cost was available in the ‘Safety Surface’ account for Tullamore Park, as that project is being deferred to Spring 2023 (with funds included in the 2022-2023 village budget,  

Later in the meeting the board confirmed the award of the contract bid  – $285,400 – to low bidder Turf Tek USA. Funds for the project come from the village’s capital budget.

On July 21, the board approved an expense of $1,850 for Superintendent Blake’;s attendance, September 20 through 22, at the National Recreation & Park Association (NRPA) Annual Conference and Exposition in Arizona. This conference consists of over 80 educational sessions, covering a wide range of topics. The conference allows individuals to acquire specialized knowledge of park maintenance issues, revenue generation, administration and other programs. Garden City staff intend to attend this conference every year. 

Last week Blake explained that a key part of the recent Hemlock Park tennis courts’ renovation was up for board approval. As part of the board of trustees July 21 agenda, a maintenance bond for $18,925 with Hicksville-based vendor National Installation and GC Corp. was approved, guaranteeing for 18 months the completed work (from the date of acceptance of the bond). 

Scream over Ice Cream Prices

An unanticipated increase in cost for ice cream products this summer led the Recreation Department to seek Village Board approval for a new vendor contract, for $32,557 with All-Star Specialties based in Wyandanch, the department’s regular vendor.

Normally for the summer season, the Rec. Department will purchase about $12,000 worth of ice cream to sell at the Garden City Pool facility’s snack shop. Superintendent Blake explained how “ice cream prices have spiked ridiculously,” as when the pricing for the 2022 season arrived the Department had to endure sticker shock of bids around $34,000.

“We could not purchase enough ice cream to get through the entire summer and stay under the bid limit. We quickly wrote up some specs and we coordinated with our village Finance and Purchasing staff. Though the bid amount is $32,557 this contract is on an as-needed basis and I do not anticipate spending the entire amount on our ice cream this year,” Blake said.

Superintendent Blake noted that like ice cream, the Garden City Pool recreational facility is exceedingly popular this summer, especially after a weeklong heatwave. Blake says compliments offered to the Recreation Department have been steady but the financial picture is the brightest aspect of the resurgence of the village’s pool. 

“We exceeded our pool membership projections in every category except one. Not only have we exceeded our projections for this year but we have exceeded projections for 2019 – the last pre-pandemic year at the pool. Kudos to all our employees working at the pool every day as we seem to have the ship going in the right direction,” Blake said.

6 responses to “Parks Superintendent: No hope for ash trees”

  1. Timothy Ryan says:

    No mention of the village replacing the trees on public right of ways.

    • Exactly. What is the plan to replace them? Certainly the Village has the money, given how many departments have been gutted of personnel and many services scaled back.

  2. Oh stop. The departments were not gutted. Nice talking point but you have no idea what you are talking about.

    • Three people with direct knowledge of Village operations have mentioned the low staffing levels to me. One described departments as being “hollowed out.”

      But don’t take their word for the troubling staffing levels and resulting decline in services. Today’s News contains a column submitted by the Village and addressing the efforts now being made clean up the central business district. The Village writes:

      “Reduced staffing in recent years in Recreation and Parks and Public Works Departments has made it difficult to keep up with litter created from such events” like the promenades.”

      The Village further writes, “In the next budget cycle the ned to increase the workforce will be addressed to restore staffing needed to meet the residents’ expectation.”

      I, am many, many other residents are grateful that we now have Trustees who are responsive to the issues and concerns of taxpaying residents.

      • It is then a surprise, since this is such a glaring problem in our village that over the last two village budgets that this new fantastic board did not hire the workers that you say they needed over the last two years. Hmmmm odd isn’t it.

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