BY JOHN CHICK
Special to the VOICE
With experts predicting another severe gypsy moth season in Niagara, one Fonthill homeowner is up in arms over the Town of Pelham’s past inaction, in his view, regarding the foliage-consuming critters.
Frank Feeley, whose property abuts Hillcrest Park, says he has documentation going back three decades showing that Pelham has neglected spraying the Town-managed woodlot that extends northeast from Pancake Lane, west of Blackwood Crescent.
“The Town has not accepted their fiduciary responsibilities,” Feeley told council at their March 18 meeting. “I think they’ve been delinquent in accepting their responsibilities.”
That irresponsibility, Feeley says, has led to gypsy moth infestation on his property and those of his neighbours. As the Town hears details of an aerial spray operation this spring by private outfit Trees Unlimited, Feeley is now asking that the Town spray his property at public expense.
“They never had an ongoing program,” Feeley told the Voice last week, citing a June 28, 1990 letter from the Town of Pelham that read, “gypsy moth infestation has reached severe proportions in Hillcrest Park and it will be necessary to continue spraying for several years.”
Feeley says that since that 1990 letter, the Town has sprayed the park just three times— that year, in 2008, and 2018. Despite spraying the park last year, Feeley says that the previous Town council “lied, denied and obfuscated” over the matter.
The resulting gypsy moth infestation, he says, has caused widespread defoliage of deciduous and evergreen trees on his property and those of his neighbours. Two years ago, Feeley says, he had to have a 75-foot oak tree removed.
“I want the Town to accept the responsibility that the infestation came right from the park.”
According to a federal government website, during its larval stage a single gypsy moth can eat an average of one square metre of leaves. Over time, the pests can effectively kill trees.
The firm Trees Unlimited hosted an open house on gypsy moths for Pelham residents on March 17, where they encouraged landowners to sign up for out-of-pocket aerial spraying. Landowners must, however, notify their neighbours of inclusion in the program so spray helicopters—flying at an altitude of 50-100 feet— can be precise in their application. During the March 18 council meeting, Ward 1 councilor Mike Ciolfi asked Trees Unlimited’s Paul Robertson if billing could be replicated the way it was the last time Pelham as a whole was sprayed in large volume in 2009, by adding the cost of the applications to the property taxes of residents who opt in.
While Feeley says that the Pelham Public Works Department has been receptive to his complaints, he said he has not heard back from Mayor Marvin Junkin or council after forwarding them his documentation.
Feeley asks why Pelham can’t build gypsy moth spraying into its annual budgets. In Hamilton, for instance, $2.5 million was dedicated towards the issue in 2017. While Pelham’s cost would not approach that number, other municipalities have followed suit.
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