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2,000 Diseased Trees in Haddonfield Need to Come Down

The borough Shade Tree Commission is trying to get the word out about bacterial leaf scorch.

The Haddonfield Shade Tree Commission says a disease eating away at two of every 10 oak trees in the borough.

Bacterial leaf scorch (BLS) is a disease that affects oak trees, particularly red and pin oaks.

It's a big deal in a town with nearly 10,000 trees in the public right of way, and an estimated 10,000 or more on private property within this 2.5-square-mile borough. Most of the public trees are oaks, which grow 50 feet tall or higher at maturity.

"We believe that the cost for removal will be significant and must come from the borough's operating budget, as removals are not considered a capital expense and grants for removals are not available," Robin Potter, the chairwoman of the Haddonfield Shade Tree Commission, said Monday on a local Internet chat room where the topic of borough trees was trending. "You may have noticed that we did not plant trees throughout the borough this past spring, spending our budget on tree removal instead."

Potter said a 2010 tree inventory identified hundreds of trees that needed to be immediately removed. More than 350 have been removed since then, but nearly 2,000 diseased trees may still need to come down in coming years.

Potter and the tree commission have stepped up efforts to get the word out to Haddonfield residents that bacterial leaf scorch is a serious problem that will command a growing share of public resources. Potter spearheaded the production team for the borough's latest town calendar, which uses a tree theme for each month to drive home the point of how important trees are to the town's identity.

The commission is also sponsoring local tree tours and updating its page on the borough website frequently with updates.

Haddonfield is designated as a Tree City USA town, a designation from the national Arboratum Society for towns with a significant canopy of municipal trees. That canopy could be threatened in coming years if up to 20 percent of borough oak trees are taken down because of the disease.

The aftermath of Sandy, the tropical storm that ravaged the Mid-Atlantic two weeks ago, 18 massive trees here were toppled. It's not immediately clear if any of them were diseased, but the prospect of massive trees toppling on cars, houses or people is enough to raise public attention.

Potter said the good news about the massive oaks is the wood is extremely dense, which keeps the bark and many branches strong. The tree may stop producing an abundant canopy of leaves but not be in immediate danger of falling for years.

"If residents are concerned whether the oak trees on their property may have BLS, they should first identify the tree species and then consult with a licensed arborist, a certified tree expert licensed by the state, to evaluate the tree," Potter said.

Potter said the one of the best times to identify diseased trees is in late summer or early fall if leaves start to turn brown prematurely.

But one respondent on Haddonfield Talks, the local Internet chat room, urged immediate action for borough shade trees.

"If the borough was really serious about this problem, we would see at least 500 trees being removed per year and we are not seing a rate even close to that," said a chat participant identified only as Jeff. "It won't wait for a solution to present itself...this inaction will hurt both the landscape and the risk profile of this town for years to come."

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Thomas Grimac November 13, 2012 at 01:42 PM
This is indeed a serious problem. Bacterial Leaf Scorch (BLS), as the name states, is a bacterial disease as opposed to a fungal disease, therefore there is no cure. With treatment, symptoms can be masked for a while, but the disease cannot be checked. Many other trees can be affected as well, including some maples and sweetgums. For anyone looking to replant, Willow oaks are NOT affected by BLS and are an awesome replacement.
Jerelyn Ablonczy November 13, 2012 at 01:43 PM
Why not have a good tree company (like Bartlett who has trained arborists) fertilize the trees around town that are at risk? I have done this and saved several oaks with the same problem. Good care would greatly lessen the problem and cost much less in the long run.
Jeff H November 13, 2012 at 02:37 PM
Jerelyn, there is no cure for this disease. No amount of money will eliminate the need to remove them. Half the trees effected already are showing signs. The tree by tree inventory that was commissioned in April, 2010 indicates that 20%+ of the tree population will be dead in 5 years. Some earlier, some later. Unfortunately, 30 months after the inventory, borough government has not taken action or even formulated a plan to deal with this issue. MAKE NO MISTAKE, THE TREES WILL EITHER BE REMOVED OR WILL COME DOWN ON THEIR OWN.
Jeff H November 13, 2012 at 02:55 PM
Readers, keep in mind that the Shade Tree Commission is in no way responsible for spending money or directing the borough to take action to confront this issue. They can only make recommendations and ensure that we are compliant with our 5-year Urban Forest Plan, which is required in order to be eligible for grant monies and 'Tree City USA' designation. The inventory is 30 months old, and as Robin indicated, there is work to be done, and work that should have been done, to manage this situation. Creative funding including partnering with the utility companies and scouring the landscape for grant opportunities should be considered before the situation becomes a risk to property and life. Whatever the case, this situation is AT LEAST as important as the Bancroft referendum and Turf Fields, projects which appear to have been funded with little consternation. WE CAN'T AFFORD TO IGNORE THIS ISSUE FURTHER!!
Ross Chatham November 13, 2012 at 03:21 PM
Why don't they just pour a bunch of penicillin around the base of the tree?
Dan Cho November 13, 2012 at 03:47 PM
Allow citizens with diseased trees to trim or remove them. Doesn't current borough law forbid this with township trees ( trees along the road or between the sidewalk and the road
Taxpayer November 13, 2012 at 04:47 PM
The $350K+ in the borough's resolution for artificial turf on Anniversary Field, a practice field, should have gone instead for more essential borough needs such as the tree issues, road repairs, storm drains, sewer upgrades, police...we gave up our court...we've reduced the town-wide leaf pick-up schedule (we were very lucky not to get all of the rain predicted with Sandy because the leaves block storm drainage). The turf bill is without question going to be a lot higher than the original low-ball estimates. Why aren't the priorities in borough spending on essentials related to public safety and property protection, as well as preserving the features that make this a good place to live for all citizens?
Taxpayer November 13, 2012 at 04:52 PM
Thanks to Robin Potter and the Shade Tree Commission for calling attention to our trees as a priority. They are part of the reason people choose to live here rather than into clear cut developments in Cherry Hill or Voorhees, so let's keep up with their maintenance and replacement.
Paul H November 13, 2012 at 06:01 PM
Sidewalks for residents who don't want or need them, turf fields for a limited population. Our amazing trees are there for everyone to enjoy, and our streets are used by all. Come on folks, where are your priorities?
George November 13, 2012 at 08:10 PM
Good comments taxpayer and Paul H. I wish that at the very least the town would accept that the loss of these trees is on an equal footing with the turf fields and the Bancroft purchase.
Friend November 13, 2012 at 09:22 PM
A dead tree is a danger. Period. They fall without warning, and they fall hard. Address the issue, NOW
Taxpayer November 13, 2012 at 09:53 PM
For those of us with tree work on our own properties that we need to pay for out of our own pockets, it's a costly service--get an estimate, and you'll cry when you have to find the money for that on top of property tax increases for this turf plus replacement costs and the referendum and other bonds to come.
Jeremiah Wright November 14, 2012 at 10:28 PM
Well said Paul.
Jeremiah Wright November 14, 2012 at 10:30 PM
Lots of trees could have been bought with that sidewalk money. Oh well.

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