Trees damaged on Main, Pine streets

SARANAC LAKE – Vandals apparently struck at two locations recently, and in both instances, the victims were trees.

One of the destroyed trees was located on Main Street right in front of the Harrietstown Town Hall; it was snapped at the stem. The other was a blue spruce about 12 feet tall and planted in an evergreen bed at Triangle Park, a small plot of land owned and maintained by the Village Improvement Society near the corner of Main and Pine streets.

Roger Steinbrueck, who co-owns Scott’s Florist with his wife Kathy and volunteers numerous hours each year caring for the decorative flowers, trees and shrubs throughout the village, said that on Wednesday, he noticed the spruce tree had been hacked and toppled over. Since Triangle Park is situated just outside Saranac Lake’s village limits, he reported the vandalism to the New York State Police.

The tree in front of the town hall was one of two service berries planted along the sidewalk there. Steinbrueck said the tree was broken about a month ago, and the other tree that’s still standing close by was also damaged. He said the dead tree was cut back to the ground and removed earlier this week.

“It was an ‘autumn brilliance’ service berry – one of seven planted in Saranac Lake this spring,” Steinbrueck said. “Now in one spot you have a stub on the ground, and if you go look at the tree that’s currently there, you’ll see they also broke off a branch, a substantial branch, that’s now sawed off. That happened all at the same time, about a month ago, when we were out of town.”

Steinbrueck was involved in the planting of the seven service berries, part of a joint purchase by the VIS, the village and the town, to replace other trees.

The spruce, which was about 6 inches in diameter at its base, was left partially chopped down, with the hack job done about 3 feet above the ground. The chopping was unfinished, as the perpetrator of the crime left the part of the tree above the cut flopped over and touching the ground.

“It looks like somebody tried to grab a Christmas tree,” Kathy Steinbrueck said while working in her florist shop early Thursday afternoon.

“I saw it yesterday (Wednesday), and it had snow on it,” Roger said. “You can see the chips. It looks like somebody was using a hatchet to try to get it down, and then they quit.

“It was a very nice tree. It just started to catch on,” he added. “Three years ago I thought, ‘It’s not going to make it.’ But this spring it got a lot of rain. It rejuvenated itself and really looked good.”

The attack on the defenseless spruce left more people than Steinbrueck upset. That tree was planted at Triangle Park by local landscaper Roger Pratt and his mother Betty Pratt back in 2001. Betty, a former VIS member who passed away in 2003, joined her son in planting the tree in memory of Roger’s father, Russell “Bugs” Pratt, who died in 2000.

Pratt said Steinbrueck informed him Thursday morning about the spruce. Pratt added that he was going to take a look at the fallen tree today.

“I’m heartbroken,” Roger said Thursday on his way back to Saranac Lake from a Christmas shopping trip to Plattsburgh. “I don’t really have a clue what kind of person would do something like that. Maybe they were trying to get a Christmas tree, saw a car and ran.

“I’ll buy another blue in the spring and plant it there again,” Pratt said. “That’s about all I can do.”