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The Last of the Willows to Be Removed from Hawkins Pond

Officials at SUNY Plattsburgh announced today that the remaining willow trees surrounding Hawkins Pond will be removed in the very near future.

High winds from Hurricane Irene toppled four of the seven trees — including one that had recently been found to have a clean bill of health in terms of being structurally sound. The college decided to remove the remaining three trees as a precaution.

“Hurricane Irene may have done further damage to the remaining trees, and, with the trees being even more exposed to the elements, we felt it was time to remove the rest of them, ensuring the safety of faculty, staff, students and visitors to the campus,” said John Homburger, the college’s vice president for administration.

In 2009, college officials warned that the trees were decaying because of damage from the 1998 ice storm. Several were removed at that time, and six more were subsequently removed this summer.

All of the willows were planted around the pond in the 1960s after the original elm trees had succumbed to Dutch elm disease. At that time, willows were chosen as a replacement because they are fast growing.

That characteristic, however, may have been the trees’ undoing. Because they grow so fast, willows have soft wood. That softness makes the trees less sturdy. As a result, they often have shorter life spans than other tree varieties.

Work is continuing on a plan to landscape the area. Officials hope that the actual landscaping will begin as early as next spring.

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