ALBANY — In celebration of Arbor Day, the Town of Colonie got a $60,800 state Department of Environmental Conservation $60,800 grant to conduct a tree survey of trees on public land and formulate a management plan.
Katelyn Reepmeyer, an engineer at the Colonie Department of Public Works, said it is the first time the town is conducting such a survey and because the town is so large it will have to be done in phases.
She said the grant was based on “environmental justice areas.” But, since the town does not have any of those within its borders, working with a DEC forester, she looked at areas of town with a higher percentage of people without vehicles and a higher number of minorities, those over 65 and those who disabled and overlaid the map to determine where the inventory will have the most impact.
While the exact parameters have not yet been solidified, the areas Phase I of the tree inventory will focus on are the Stanford Heights Pocket Park, the Lisha Kill Sports Complex, the Town of Colonie Golf Course, a vacant parcel vacant at 620 Sand Creek Road and Latham Water District properties on Morris Road.
In all, the arborist hired by the town will catalog some 15,000 trees and then present a management plan on how best to maintain them.
“There is a rising concern of the state of trees in the town and we are grateful for the opportunity,” she said of the grant. “We have seen storm impacted road closures (from fallen trees) and how important it was to take stock of what we have and, of course, all the different positives the trees provide.”
The town will go out to bid for an arborist and the findings will be presented to the public. The grant was just announced on Friday, April 30, so there is no estimated time frame on when the inventory will be complete.
Which trees will be counted and catalogued is not clear, she said. For example, it would be a near impossibility to count every tree on the golf course so the study could only count trees of a certain diameter or maybe a sample of the golf course land.
“This is still a work in progress,” Reepmeyer said. “Our original application was for 15,000 trees but the amount of funding was less than we anticipated so we scaled it back a little bit. The 15,000 number is a ball park.”
The Colonie grant is one of 26, totaling $1.2 million, awarded to communities across the state to conduct an inventory and plant and maintain public trees. It is the second phase of grants awarded through the DEC’s Division of Lands and Forests’ Urban and Community Forestry Program, which awarded a total of $2.6 million to fund 64 projects statewide.
“Trees are vital to our community life, public health, and our environment,” said Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul in a statement.
The awarded projects were selected from 154 applications, ranked by cost effectiveness, lasting benefits, use of partnerships, inclusion of outreach and education, and support from local stakeholders. The UCF grants complement DEC’s ongoing initiatives to address invasive species, climate change, environmental degradation, environmental justice, and urban sprawl.
“Each year, Arbor Day reminds us of the importance of trees and their profound impact on our everyday lives,” said DEC Commissioner Seggos. “Healthy community forests provide a host of environmental, economic, and social benefits, including wildlife habitat, watershed protection, flood reduction, increased property values, and improved public health.
Over the last nine years, New York State has awarded more than $12.6 million in urban forestry grants to support projects with a total value of more than $20 million.
Other Capital District grants include $53,000 for the Radix Ecological Sustainability Center to plant trees and $21,300 for Castleton on the Hudson to conduct a tree inventory.
Colonie is generally in sound financial condition with steady commercial and population growth. As such, it does not qualify for many grant opportunities, most of which are based on need to one degree or another.