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Petition signatures climb with no decision in sight on Potsdam’s pear trees

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POTSDAM — Concerned citizens are still waiting for a determination from the village about the controversial downtown Manchurian pear trees, whose fate is on hold while village officials weigh alternatives to replacement. Village Mayor Steven W. Yurgartis said he has been waiting for more information on spray options for more than a week from St. Lawrence Nurseries owner William L. MacKentley.

Meanwhile, an online petition to save the trees has garnered more than 350 signatures.

Mr. Yurgartis said in a meeting Monday that he has still not heard from Mr. MacKentley on a second organic spray option that would prevent the pear trees from fruiting. According to the mayor, Mr. MacKentley’s first spray option will not work because it is only approved for use in California.

Mr. MacKentley said the second option for the trees is lime sulfur in oil which, when used in conjunction with a plant growth hormone, will prevent up to 99 percent of fruit from setting. It is certified organic and approved for use in the state.

More than a week ago, the mayor asked Mr. MacKentley for prices, availability and manufacturers on the spray, but Mr. MacKentley said he has been too busy with farm and nursery projects to reply, and doesn’t consider the matter urgent since the trees won’t need spraying until spring.

In the past, Mr. MacKentley has provided trees to urban gardening organizations in New York City and Boston to make fruit available to the urban poor, and argues that north country towns such as Potsdam need not be different.

“If these cities can do this, why can’t Canton and Potsdam?” he said of downtown villages. “(They) can be made to look beautiful and provide something useful. It’s just in how you look at it.”

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