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Metro ink - 11-01-06


In Mt.HopeCemetery, a worker prepares to remove a giant beech tree. - PHOTO BY JUSTIN REYNOLDS

The grand historic homes built in the 1800's by prominent Rochester families make East Avenue one of the city's most alluring streets. And some of that attraction is due to the old trees that span the lawns of these grand homes.

Among the most beautiful is the European beech (fagaceae sylvatica), but its future could be in question. Several have already been removed in the East Avenue area. The large one in Mt.HopeCemetery near the fountain was removed last Friday. And more than 50 others throughout the city have been examined for an airborne fungal infection that arborists and horticulturists call "bleeding beech canker." There is no effective treatment, and it eventually kills infected trees.

The European beech comes in more than a dozen varieties --- reds, coppers, variegateds, uprights, weepers. They are a slow-growing deciduous tree with smooth gray bark and a billowing crown. But their most recognizable feature is their size: 140 feet high and 60 feet wide.

"They are what we call estate trees, because they really require a huge space," says Greg Frank, an arborist with Ted Collins Landscaping. "I've seen them get 6 feet wide in the trunk area. They really fill in a landscape in a special way. Mansions, estates, museums, and parks are typical sites for them, because they need that room. And you can't appreciate them unless you see their full structure."

The bleeding beech canker has been detected on 23 trees in Rochester, as well as trees in other Upstate cities and on Long Island. A research team from CornellUniversity has taken samples from the trees for further examination.

"We are not completely sure what it is or what will happen to the rest of the trees," says Judy Hubbard, a horticulturist with Cornell Cooperative Extension. "The trunk area will develop a reddish-brown ulcer that oozes, and the cambium or living part of the tree underneath the bark becomes decayed. It's unable to send water and nutrients up the tree to the branches. You'll start to see the leaves on those upper branches discolor and die."

Due to their immense size and elaborately formed trunks, the loss of beech trees could fundamentally change the character of streets like East Avenue and parks like Genesee and Highland.

Both Frank of Ted Collins Landscaping and Richard Nolan in the city's forestry department report receiving calls from worried residents who have seen the beech trees being taken down.

"I understand their concern, because it's a real problem, and it's hard to place a value on these old trees," says Frank. "We took an increment boring of the trunk of the one in front of 1600 East Avenue a few years ago. It was easily more than 200 years old."

--- Tim Louis Macaluso


Somewhere along the line, Republicans decided that Social Security was a winning issue in the mid-term elections.

It's not exactly clear why, coming just a year after the president's unpopular tour promoting his reorganization plan. But a new crop of commercials are out, attacking Democratic candidates on the issue. And it's not an attack you'd expect, given the president's proposals. The ads say that while Republican candidates view Social Security as a sacred trust, Democrats will cut benefits, raise age-eligibility limits, raise taxes, and privatize the system. Huh?

Of all of these, perhaps the nastiest is leveled against Democrat Eric Massa, who's running for Congress in New York's 29th district.

The ad, paid for by the National Republican Congressional Committee, shows gunsights locking in on the heads or chests of senior citizens while an ominous voice enumerates the changes the GOP says Massa would make. (You can view the ad on YouTube at

Massa quickly responded with a press conference on Saturday, accusing Kuhl of playing politics with gun violence. Within hours, Kuhl issued his own press release stating that he was "shocked" by the ad, that his campaign hadn't known about it, and that he wanted the ad withdrawn.

Early this week the ad was still running, though, and a spokesman for the NRCC said it would continue. To cancel it at the request of a candidate would constitute coordination between the candidate's own campaign and the national committee, which would be a breach of election laws, he said.

The New York State Democratic Party got the final word in the battle of the press releases, treading where the Massa campaign didn't dare.

"The last candidate in America who should be trying to link his opponent to gun violence in his ads is Randy Kuhl," wrote party spokesman Blake Zeff, alluding to allegations from Kuhl's divorce records that surfaced during his campaign two years ago.

But Kuhl may get the last laugh. This kind of negative advertising turns off many voters who would otherwise turn up at the polls on November 7. Low voter turnout tends to be good for Republicans, incumbents, and candidates who enjoy an enrollment advantage. All three apply to Kuhl.

--- Krestia DeGeorge


Girls' hockey as a high-school varsity sport is still probably a ways off in the Rochester area, but two events over the next week could help lay the foundation.

This weekend, the ESL Centre will play host to the Fire-On-Ice girls' hockey tournament, which involves hundreds of girls from the US and Canada. In the seven years of its existence, the tournament has grown from 16 teams to 60, says its organizer, Ray Cardella, who serves as director of girls' programs for Rochester Youth Hockey.

Then on Monday, November 6, at 8:30 p.m., roughly 45 girls will take part in an exhibition at Webster Ice Arena; the game will feature a Webster/Penfield team facing a Fairport/Pittsford team.

Admission to both events is free.

Cardella says about 65 to 70 girls participate in RYH's programs, with another 15 or 20 playing on boys' teams in the area. They're among the 10,000 girls across the country who play hockey, Cardella says. He adds that local girls' hockey experienced a burst after the 2002 Olympics, when Greece's Kim Insalaco and Churchville's Lyndsay Wall played on the US team.

One of the long-term goals of players, parents, and officials is the eventual establishment of varsity girls' hockey programs in local high schools. But that might take some time, Cardella says. "The first hurdle we'll have to clear is getting enough kids in one location and one school district to field a team," he says.

Others think that with definite steps forward --- like the upcoming tournament and exhibition --- varsity girls' hockey is possible. "We have a lot of younger girls playing hockey now," says Webster Thomas athletic director Scott Morrison. "It's an indication of how far we've come."

--- Ryan Whirty