October 24, 2021

City tree vandalized

Photo provided by Mike Dexter

Vandals stripped the bark from this autumn blaze tree on Charles Street in Cortland, which will lead to its death.

Mike Dexter was in disbelief when he saw the pictures a co-worker sent him this week of the autumn blaze tree on Charles Street stripped of its bark.

“This is devastating to see someone do this,” he said Thursday. “It’s just beyond comprehension that they killed a living thing.”

As the chairman of the city’s Landscape and Design Committee, Dexter led the supervision of the planting of the tree four years ago. Now, with the help of Cortland’s police, he’s hoping that justice will be brought to the people who vandalized it. It’s no small damage, he said; the tree is valued between $800 and $1,000.

Got a tip?

Anyone who has information on who vandalized a tree on Charles Street in Cortland can call city police at 607-753-3001, ext. 0

That would carry a charge of third-degree criminal mischief, a felony, said Paul Sandy, the deputy police chief.

Dexter first learned about the tree Tuesday when a member of the committee who was doing work near Charles Street saw it, took a picture, and sent it to members of the committee.

Dexter went to the site to investigate before contacting Paul Sandy, Cortland’s deputy police chief.

“It’s clearly vandalism,” Sandy said. “Someone took some time.”

Since then, the police have questioned neighbors on the street and examined footage from nearby security cameras, Sandy said.

The tree is in front of a property owned by Peter Feuerherm, who said that Kevin Walker, owner of the property adjacent to Feuerherm’s, had video footage of two children vandalizing the tree.

Walker though said he didn’t know who the children were as he hasn’t lived on the street in two years.

Feuerherm also said he’s not sure of the children’s identity.

Sandy said officers weren’t able to reach Walker as of Thursday afternoon.

The tree will have to be removed, because it cannot survive without its bark, Dexter said. A new tree will replace it, though when and what type is still up in the air.

“There will be a tree one way or another,” he said.

The Landscape and Design Committee works to oversee the planting of trees across the city.

Each year, the committee supervises the planting of 50 to 70 trees.

The trees are bought with grants from the state Department of Environmental Conservation grants.

When the city looks to plant trees in front of a residence, the owner’s permission is required. Once it is planted — especially for trees between the sidewalk and street like the one vandalized — it is city property.

As for Feuerherm’s message to the vandals?

“You shouldn’t be damaging other people’s property,” he said. “That’s the bottom line.”