State of the tree

Edwin McGrath, an arborist with ArborPro, inspects the leaves of a green ash tree on the Saranac Lake Riverwalk on Tuesday. He was looking for little white hairs that help with moisture absorption, which he calls “fuzzums.” (Enterprise photo — Aaron Cerbone)

SARANAC LAKE — Edwin McGrath is walking around the village this week looking at trees.

He’s an arborist with the urban forestry consulting company ArborPro Inc., which has been contracted by the village of Saranac Lake to take a census of all the leafy and piny growth within the 2.78-square-mile village limits.

The data he collects will be used to create a forest management plan. The village will use this plan to care for its trees in the coming years as it looks to plant more in the downtown corridor and in village parks. The plan will also outline how the village will combat invasive species, remove and plant trees, and keep its streets green.

“There’s a lot of benefits to an urban forest, the aesthetics of it, shade — it helps keeps things cooler — stormwater capture,” village Community Development Director Jamie Konkoski said. “It’s really valuable.”

The village was awarded $12,800 by the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s Urban and Community Forestry Program for this survey and plan.

Edwin McGrath, an arborist with ArborPro, uses a hypsometer to measure the height of a tree on the Saranac Lake Riverwalk on Tuesday. The device uses trigonometry to calculate the height by taking distance measurements from the base and top of a tree. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Cerbone)

The $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant the village won in 2018 also includes some funding to increase the number of trees planted downtown.

McGrath is certified through the International Society of Arboriculture. He wears a yellow vest filled with the tools of the trade — a measuring tape, a hypsometer and a tablet for logging information — but his most useful tools are his eyes and hands.

He observes the trees, looking for interesting information — invasive species, evidence of trimming, health problems and use. He logs each tree’s height and trunk width, its species and the location it sits at.

McGrath started on Monday and had counted 361 trees by Tuesday afternoon.

“It’s been a blast so far,” McGrath said on Tuesday.

Edwin McGrath, an arborist with ArborPro, measures a birch tree von the Saranac Lake Riverwalk on Tuesday. McGrath is taking inventory of all the village’s trees this week. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Cerbone)

He said Saranac Lake’s inventory is different than what he usually sees. He’s been in parks more often than streets.

McGrath is from Chazy but he’s done this all over the country. The job is not as tame as it might seem. McGrath said he’s worked on bustling intersections in California metropolises, had big dogs with huge chains around their necks run up on him in Alabama, and on Tuesday, he almost fell into the Saranac River trying to measure a green ash.

“As the arborist works throughout the village, anyone is welcome to stop and ask questions about the tree inventory process,” a press release from the village reads. “Be on the look out for someone in a yellow vest with a sun hat on carrying a large tablet.”

McGrath said the sugar maples by Lake Flower have gypsy caterpillars, an invasive species of moth which eats all the plant life off trees, leaving them vulnerable. The trees recently planted at Prescott Park, the site of the Ice Palace, were planted too shallow. He said they’ll die soon if their roots are not given more depth.

He also said he’s seen some large, old growths, including a 75-foot-tall green ash by the Dorsey Street parking lot on the Riverwalk.

“I’m pretty sure that’s the tallest green ash I’ve ever seen,” McGrath said.

The village’s last tree inventory in 1999 counted 287 roadside trees and 304 trees in village parks.


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