More trees to spring from town, Friends of Trees partnership

JULIE LANE PHOTO | Highway Department workers braved freezing temperatures early Friday morning to plant trees along Cobbetts Lane as part of a joint project between Friends of Trees and the town.

JULIE LANE PHOTO | Highway Department workers braved freezing temperatures early Friday morning to plant trees along Cobbetts Lane as part of a joint project between Friends of Trees and the town.

Undeterred by frigid temperatures last Friday morning, Highway Department workers planted several trees — maples and redbuds — along Cobbetts Lane, just east of Coecles Place. It was all part of an shared effort between Friends of Trees, a nonprofit civic organization, and Shelter Island Town to assure that healthy trees will continue to dot Shelter Island’s landscape for future generations, according to Tim Purtell, chairman of the group.

Plans also were in place to plant a kousa dogwood tree in the Center as part of the late fall effort.

Selection of trees and sites where they’ll be planted is a result of a joint decision between Friends of Trees and the town, Mr. Purtell said. The seven-member board of Friends of Trees discusses possible sites and then works with Highway Department Superintendent Jay Card Jr. to determine if those sites are the most ideal for the young trees.

Weather and disease claim existing trees from time to time, necessitating ongoing planting and stewardship to ensure ongoing beauty on the Island, he said.

Original plans called for this round of planting to take place last spring, but there were delays in getting the trees to Shelter Island from upstate, Mr. Purtell said.

The organization sprung up in 1996 under the auspices of Yioula van Rynbach and Don Kornrumpf and others who wanted to assure the preservation of trees on the Island, he said. Today, the organization has a membership of about 120 people, he said.

Since its inception, the group has been responsible for adding 50 trees in various parts of the Island. Members pay dues to support the purchase of the trees that town workers plant and maintain, he said, noting that Mr. Card manages to secure the saplings at very competitive prices.

Through the years, Friends of Trees has overseen the plantings of oaks, kousa dogwoods, sweetgums, horse chestnuts and others. Among sites where trees have been planted are on Manhanset, Midway, St. Mary’s roads as well as Cobbetts Lane. Last year, 11 maple trees were planted on Cobbetts and last week’s effort was to fill in gaps to prepare for a time when some of the older maples die out, Mr. Purtell said.

He and Angela van Rynbach, a board member of Friends of Trees, were onsite Friday morning to observe the workers.

Original plans called for planting to take place last spring, but shipping of the trees was delayed, leading to the late fall planting.

If trees were to disappear from the landscape as a result of storms and diseases without efforts to replace them, some of the Island’s beauty could be lost forever, Mr. Purtell said.

Besides the new planting, the organization has helped to maintain the town’s historic linden trees and to mark 75 trees throughout Shelter Island as Landmarks.

What’s more, Friends of Trees assumes an educational role, offering walks around the Island to show people the diversity of the trees here and to talk about their importance, not only to the beauty of the Island, but to explain how the role trees play in reducing runoff, filtering pollutants and providing habitat and food for wildlife, Mr. Purtell said.

In the spring of 2014, Friends of Trees plans to schedule several such tours, Ms. van Rynbach said.