Cemetery tree removal begins

Bourn knocks down rotten trees 

It began with faint popping sounds that grew in volume as they grew in intensity.

In the blink of an eye one tree top began moving like a pedestrian through New York City sidewalk traffic until – whack – a collision.

Like a Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker teeing off on a wide receiver daring to come across the middle, one 100-foot-plus, 100-year-old-plus tree crashed into the other, just downhill from where Calvin Bourn stood with his chainsaw. 

A resounding crash echoed across the hillside, and snow, limbs and pine needles flew in every direction as both trunks smashed into the ground. 

The end result, a bank shot where one tree, strategically cut and ready to fall, gets tackled by the other tree and both end up crashing to the ground exactly where Bourn wanted them to fall – in the roadway to facilitate an easy clean up.

The Mettowee Valley Cemetery association hired Bourn to take out the worst of the worst from among the trees surrounding the cemetery.

The cemetery association mounted a fund drive in the fall asking anyone with ties to the cemetery to contribute to remove the hazardous old and damaged trees.

About 60 trees in need of removal were identified, officials said. Bourn gave a bid to the association for the removal of about 20 of the very worst.

Many of the trees, believed to have been planted around the time the cemetery was established in roughly 1908-1913, are rotten to the core, association member Jim Roberts said. Cemetery association members said about $4,000 was raised through their campaign and additional monies from their operating budget will be used to cover the costs of this urgent work.

Bourn said each tree he had taken down during the few days he had been working in the cemetery was in bad shape and just waiting for any excuse to fall down.

“I took one down the other day that came apart in about 20 different pieces when it hit the ground,” Bourn said.

He shows off the trunk sections stacked next to the cemetery roadway and the core of each tree had a honeycombed appearance. Others are simply sawdust.

Bourn said the condition of the trees doesn’t concern him – he’s dealt with worse – but it’s hard to imagine how.

Several of the trees, marked with a spray painted ‘X’ and then wrapped with pink surveyor’s tape, have splits in the bark running up along the trunks.

Bourn said he expected to be in the cemetery for about two weeks with one worker to complete the job.

Cemetery board president Ron Barrett said in September the association had hoped to have the trees removed in exchange for the wood, but the bottom dropped out of the pulp market and the trees were essentially worthless.

A letter writing campaign to the families who either have plots or loved ones buried at the cemetery has been underway for more than a year, but Barrett said there are many more families represented in the cemetery, as many as 500, that the association had no contact information for, and not everyone who is contacted can afford to make a donation.

People who are interested in helping the cause can send a letter to Kay Edwards at 45 East Main Street, Granville, NY, 12832.

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