NEWFANE – One of the large, historic maple trees on Newfane Common has been felled.
A crew from Jamaica’s Carr Tree & Timber removed the tree from a high-traffic area outside the Windham County Courthouse on Thursday. Henry Carr, company owner and International Society of Arborculture (ISA)-certified arborist, said the sugar maple had died off in the last year, becoming a risk to pedestrians and the historic building.
“The tree quickly declined due to environmental pressures as well as building updates necessary to comply with modern federal guidelines about five years ago,” he said in a statement about the project. “Everyone on this project did a great job of reducing the impact on the tree, but unfortunately the build had to be well within the critical root zone.”
Carr described mature trees, particularly sugar maples, as “very sensitive to root disturbance, drought and temperature extremes.”
“We saw that many trees that were already stressed were pushed over the edge by last year’s drought,” he said.
The project was coordinated by retired Windham County forest ranger Bill Guenther, the statement said. He continues to invest his time tending trees on state-owned property, which he says is “the finest common in the state.”
Guenther estimates that the maple tree that was removed was probably 150 to 175 years old.
“The courthouse was built in 1825, so the tree was probably planted 20 to 50 years after the building was constructed,” he explained.
For about 20 years, Guenther has overseen a tree care plan for the property.
“Unfortunately, during recent construction, the tree that was removed was just too close to the building,” he said, referring to renovations at the courthouse. “Together with last year’s drought, it was too much for this monarch to bear. But on the bright side, we’ve planted a generation of Green Mountain sugar maples and oaks that are more resilient to road salt.”
Carr’s crew and Guenther worked with judges Lamont Barnett and Carolyn Partridge to plan the project. Partridge told the Reformer she heard that the installation of an access route created to comply with the Americans with Disability Act could have affected the tree’s root system.
“I love old trees. I hate to see them cut down, but I think in this case it was really justified,” she said Monday. “So public safety had to come first.”
An important part of an arborist’s job is to prevent unnecessary removal of trees by making owners aware of maintenance maintenance opportunities they may not know exist, Carr said. He noted that the ultimate decision rests with the tree owner.
“Sometimes removal is the best option, especially when there is a high risk of injury or damage – and like all living organisms, trees eventually reach the end of their lives,” he said.
Günther said he was “very impressed” with Carr Tree & Timber’s service in removing the challenging tree.
“You did an excellent job,” he stated. “Even though we’ve lost a beautiful big tree, we must remember that trees are like us: they don’t live forever.”
Carr and Guenther said they recommend working with ISA-certified arborists because Vermont lacks professional licensing or regulation of tree services and because of climate change, pollution, invasive pests and disease, Vermont’s tree population is under pressure. ISA-certified arborists follow a code of ethics and voluntary industry safety and performance standards. ISA’s Find an Arborist search tool is available at treesaregood.org/findanarborist.
Currently, Carr’s company is involved in many projects to control invasive tree pests. He said the two biggest invasive pests affecting trees locally are the emerald ash borer and the hemlock woolly adelgid.