Liz Souter. VOICE PHOTO

Mayor lends a hand in clean-up, but no Town plan to remove trees

BY JOHN CHICK
Special to the VOICE

While most would agree that mature trees give a property charm and contribute to Pelham’s character, there’s a severe downside to being near certain species of them. Just ask Liz Souter, who has been living next to several willows on Town of Pelham property for two decades. And just as has happened in the past, this fall has brought a serious mess and damage to her home.

“I’ve been fighting with [the Town] for 19 years over these trees,” Souter said. “I don’t know what to do anymore, I’m just so fed up with it.”

Souter lives on Quaker Road, directly adjacent to the municipal-owned Steve Bauer Trail segment that links Quaker with Harold Black Park. The pathway is lined with willow trees. A few weeks back, a windstorm brought down more sizable branches, breaking her fence. Between that damage and the cost of hiring somebody to get up on her roof and clean up that debris, she says she is again on the hook financially because of the Town’s inaction.

“Insurance is now involved over the fence,” she said. “Why should I have to pay a $500 deductible? Now I have to hire someone to go up on top of my roof to get the branches off. Why should I be paying for this stuff?”

Branches and debris drop each year onto Souter’s property from nearby willow trees. SUPPLIED PHOTO

It happens every fall. Almost exactly a year ago, the Voice visited Souter after falling branches damaged her eavestroughs. Beyond the cost of repairs and cleanup however, is the fact that Souter, 75, is left to address the mess on the ground herself.

“It’s a good thing I keep my car in the garage, or it would have been damaged by branches too,” she said.

A few days back she got a hand in that regard from Mayor Marvin Junkin, who showed up at Souter’s house with his wife to give her a hand gathering some of the debris.

“We picked up the branches and twigs and put them on the walking trail,” said Junkin, “which was already blocked by a big branch, knowing that Public Works was coming to clear trail the next day.”

When asked what the Town has planned as a solution to the annual problem, Junkin said that the trees will likely be trimmed —cut back, but not cut down— in the spring. While Souter appreciates Junkin’s help, she says that trimming the trees only kicks the can down the road.

“The trouble is cutting them back, a couple of years is going to go by and it will be the same problem,” she said. Souter has asked Town employees in the past about removing the trees outright, but has been told this won’t happen.

“They say, ‘They’re not dead, we can’t remove them.’”

To add insult to injury, two years ago Souter met with the Town’s arborist, who she said basically dismissed her.

“He should have just stayed in the office, he seemed very disinterested when I explained my concerns to him,” she told the Voice last year. “He commented to me that he wished he had these willow trees in his backyard. I was in disbelief.”

While the autumnal debris and damage have come to be expected, Souter also said that the shade the willow trees create in the summer has also negatively affected the house. When she had her roof replaced in 2017, roofers found moss on the old shingles. With no sunlight getting through, the roof on that side of the house is constantly damp. As a result, she’s concerned the new roof won’t last as long as it should.