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For Release: Wednesday, August 5, 2015

DEC Makes Difficult Decision to Remove the Historic Balmville Tree

Advanced Age Has Taken a Toll on This Magnificent Tree that Now Poses an Imminent Threat to Public Safety

Due to its deteriorated condition and a greatly expanded crack in the historic Balmville Tree that makes it an immediate threat to passing traffic, state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Acting Commissioner Marc Gerstman today announced the difficult decision to remove the tree. Together with town of Newburgh officials, DEC inspected the tree on Monday, July 20 and all agreed the failing condition of the tree posed a serious threat to public safety. The removal took place today.

"It is with deep regret and sadness that we make the decision to remove this historic and much-beloved tree that has been a historic symbol for Newburgh and the region for generations," said Acting Commissioner Gerstman. "However, the damaged tree poses a significant public safety risk that makes its removal necessary."

DEC consulted with a professional arborist who inspected the tree and found it to be an extremely high risk to public safety and recommended removal. The Town of Newburgh Police Chief closed the Balmville Road, as it passes by the tree, as a temporary measure to address the threat posed by the tree.

DEC took immediate steps to take the tree and supporting infrastructure down and begin the process of preserving the site as a public park with appropriate interpretive materials to commemorate this historic tree. DEC has been working with town officials, adjoining landowners and stakeholders to discuss future management of the site and possible uses for any usable wood that can be salvaged from the tree.

Numerous attempts to propagate the tree by professional botanists, using cuttings from the tree, have proved unsuccessful. A nearby neighbor did have success with a cutting and has progeny of the tree growing in his yard. DEC's Saratoga Tree Nursery staff will take more cuttings and will attempt to perpetuate this amazing tree.

Historic Tree

The Balmville Tree is a historic and unusually large Eastern Cottonwood tree that has been growing since before 1699 in Balmville, a hamlet in Town of Newburgh, Orange County. The tree sits at the intersection of River Road, Commonwealth Avenue and Balmville Road at a place commonly known as the Balmville Tree Circle. The tree is over 98 inches in diameter at breast height and at over 300 years old, it is considered to be the oldest living eastern cottonwood in the United States. In 1975 it was listed on the registry of historic trees. It has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 2000. DEC has consulted with the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation on the tree's condition and removal and have since added current photographs to the historic record.

DEC has been actively maintaining the tree since 1976. At that time, DEC acquired a permanent easement from surrounding landowners for the preservation and maintenance of the tree and adopted regulations designating the tree as a protected plant pursuant to Section 9-1503 of the Environmental Conservation Law (ECL). In 1995, DEC installed an elaborate steel mast and guy wire system to help support and prolong the life of the tree. Pruning and other measures have been undertaken as well. Recent assessments of the tree indicate that the trunk and most remaining branches are hollow.

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