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Free Pines in the City, if You Know Where to Go

Free Pines in the City, if You Know Where to Go

The New York Times 12/20/2010

By COREY KILGANNON

Lush green wreaths and garlands can cost a bundle in Manhattan at Christmastime, but regular users of the Hudson River bike path on the West Side of Manhattan have a better place to gather bounteous boughs by the sack-load for free near 96th Street in Riverside Park.

Keepers of the tennis courts there have a little Christmas tradition in December. They set up orange pylon cones with signs — “Seasonal Boughs, Help Yourself” — and then they begin cutting branches off the 40-odd Japanese black pine trees that line the western edge of the courts.

“I was trimming the trees 10 years ago and some people walking by asked, ‘Can we take the clippings, as holiday decorations?’” recalled Patrick Weisel, director of facilities and landscape planning for the Riverside Clay Tennis Association, which maintains the courts.

Mr. Weisel was trimming the trees with a 30-foot pruning pole, and the ground along the base of the trees was littered with cutoff boughs. This year’s piney castoffs are especially bountiful. The group received a citation by park officials ordering them to trim back the trees that had overgrown too far into the bike path.

“People are getting free pine decorations, and they’re also helping us get rid of the clippings,” he said.

One cyclist stopped and lashed a bundle of branches to his racing bike. One dog walker produced a plastic shopping bag and stuffed it full of pine.

“We used to alert our members by sending out an e-mail, when we were going to clip,” Mr. Weisel said. “But now this bike path has thrived in recent years. So many people – bikers and dog walkers — come from all around, and people have really found out about it.”

“Some of the bigger branches, they’re almost like small Christmas trees,” he added. “My co-workers say, ‘You could take these up to Broadway and sell them for a fortune.’”