Downtown: Christmas trees don’t just spring up overnight in Concord

  • City workers load a newly downed tree onto a truck Friday to bring it over to set it up at Eagle Square. GEOFF FORESTER photos / Monitor staff

  • Concord city worker Ben St. Amand begins to cut down a tree in front of the former Department of Employment Security building on South Main Street on early Friday morning, Nov. 17, 2017. The tree will be put up in Eagle Square. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Concord city worker Ben St. Amand gets his chainsaw started to cut down the spruce tree in front of the former DES building on North Main Street on Friday morning, Nov. 17, 2017. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Concord city worker Ben St. Amand watches as the tree falls in front of the old Department of Employment Security building on North Main Street early Friday morning, Nov. 17, 2017. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Sunday, November 19, 2017

Some people might say October is a little early to start shopping for the holidays. But when it comes to Christmas trees for the city, Chip Chesley disagrees.

Chesley, director of city’s General Services Department, has had Christmas trees on his mind since before Columbus Day.

City workers have been scouting trees for weeks, he said, and have already raised a tree in front of the State House. A second tree that goes in Eagle Square – lopped off the top of a spruce in front of the former Department of Employment Security building Friday morning – will go up Monday, he said.

Turns out it’s no small feat to find Christmas trees for the city.

“It’s always in the back of your mind, but we like to have an idea about a tree by Columbus Day, because by Halloween we’re raking leaves,” he said. “We like to have it in place before the parade, to get it out of the way.”

The city tries to find a tree within city limits; this year’s State House tree, for example, came from Blossom Hill Cemetery. Last year’s came from Terrill Park.

Residents have donated trees in the past, but not every big tree is an ideal candidate due to accessibility: The trees the city takes are usually so big that they have to be taken out with a crane and a flatbed truck.

“As kind as it is for people to think of us, if there’s an obstruction in the way, we can’t get in there,” Chesley said.

The city then joins forces with the state’s Department of Transportation to strings hundreds of lights on those two trees, as well as the two permanent Christmas trees in the Heights and Penacook Village.

Chesley admitted that talking about the process might take away a little bit of the “magic” around Christmas, but he’s proud of the city’s efforts to bring the holiday to the city.

“Everyone probably has their own ‘tree’ that they think of when they talk about the Concord Christmas tree,” he said.

You’ll get to see the fruits of their labor later this week – the State House plaza Christmas tree lighting ceremony will kick off at 4 p.m. this Friday. If pretty lights aren’t enough to entice you, there will also be horse-drawn wagons, live music, snacks and fireworks, all free of charge.

Community groves

Speaking of trees, residents have the chance to have a Rollins Park tree planted in their name, for a price.

The city is rolling out an Adopt-A-Tree program, with the goal of raising money to replant at least 100 trees that had to be cut down in the park due to disease.

The prices are as follows: $350 for an evergreen tree; $450 for a “flowering” tree, like witch hazel and dogwood; $650 for a “shade level” tree, such as red oak, sugar maple, beech and yellow birch; and for $2,750, you can get five trees – three shady, one flowering, one evergreen.

Trees will be purchased and planted in the spring.

Looming change

The Monitor will be breaking down the potential changes to the city’s strategic parking plan the city council will be considering over the next few weeks. Some of them – like proposals to change downtown meter rates, increased meter violation fees and the possibility of permit parking spreading to downtown residential areas – have the potential for widespread impact on capital city residents and visitors alike.

But one change may be a relief or a hindrance to those with loose change in their pocket: The city’s Parking Committee is recommending switching to accepting only quarters at its kiosks, meaning buying fractions of time with nickels and dimes would be out.

Deputy City Manager Matt Walsh has said the change would keep meters from jamming, which frustrates the public and can cause the kiosks to close.

Committee out;‘strike force’ in

The mayor will be asking the city’s administrators to come up with a resolution disbanding the Economic Development Advisory Council.

Jim Bouley brought up the measure at the tail end of last week’s city council meeting. The committee, which he said has been around “as long as me,” no longer serves a purpose since the city hired its economic development director, Suzi Pegg.

“A large, slow, cumbersome committee is no longer effective,” Bouley said, arguing that the city should instead take a “strike force” tactic when it comes to attracting industry to the city.

Disbanding the committee would mean altering city ordinance 30-3-16.

Shutting down

The city’s offices will be closed Thursday and Friday for the Thanksgiving holiday.

(Caitlin Andrews can be reached at 369-3309, candrews@cmonitor.com or on Twitter at @ActualCAndrews.)