Concord takes a crack at cultivating ‘street tree’ committee

  • Adolescent trees on Village Street in the city of Concord on Thursday, August 9, 2018. Maddie Vanderpool—Concord Monitor

  • Adolescent trees are seen on Village Street in Penacook. Maddie Vanderpool / Monitor staff

  • Adult tree on Auburn Street in the city of Concord on Thursday, August 9, 2018. Maddie Vanderpool—Concord Monitor

  • Adult trees are seen along Auburn Street in Concord. Maddie Vanderpool / Monitor staff

  • Adult trees and adolescent trees on Auburn Street in the city of Concord on Thursday, August 9, 2018. Maddie Vanderpool—Concord Monitor

  • Adolescent trees on Village Street in the city of Concord on Thursday, August 9, 2018. Maddie Vanderpool—Concord Monitor

Monitor staff
Published: 8/9/2018 6:49:22 PM

Some of Concord’s most popular residents line its streets on an everyday basis.

Near White Park, leafy sentinels stand guard over Auburn Street. To the north, a springy row of saplings near the fire station point the way to Penacook.

These trees are a testament to Concord’s dedication to its street trees – plantings chosen to withstand the challenges of an urban environment while maintaining the city’s mixed forest feel.

Arbor-inclined residents may soon be able to take a crack at managing these trees themselves. The Concord Conservation Commission is considering creating a subcommittee dedicated to street trees.

The group’s goals would cover everything related to street trees and urban forestry, including identifying funding sources and areas for plantings, awards for best business landscaping, training and community education, and establishing landscaping regulations.

A street tree is defined as any tree planted along roadways or driveways, or in parking lots, said assistant city planner Beth Fenstermacher. They’re typically chosen for their hardiness and their ability to withstand urban conditions, like sand and salt spray and drought.

“The city does a lot” for its trees already, Fenstermacher said. “But it could do more.”

More, like updating the street tree policy’s suggesting acceptable trees, said Cory Keeffe, community forester for the state Department of Natural and Cultural Resource’s Division of Forests and Lands. He noted that some trees might seem like good choices for the city, but then later found to have invasive tendencies.

“Take the Norway maple,” he said. “In the 80s it was seen as a great street tree, but it turned out to be invasive.”

Keeffe also said promoting diversity was important, saying insects that devastate elm trees, a prominent tree in Concord, have been seen in Massachusetts. He said the list should be updated every year.

The threat of insects is already present in Concord – residents might remember the red pine scale invasion that felled 200 of Rollins Parks’s trees last spring. Those trees are now being replaced with a variety of trees, but the scales (a type of insect), coupled with a recent emerald ash borer invasion is predicted to wipe out 20 percent of Concord’s trees in the next few years, Fenstermacher said.

Conservation Commission members also emphasized the importance of education around landscaping. They noted that several businesses use “volcano mulching,” a practice of piling mulch around the base of a tree that can cause rot and expose the tree to insects and diseases.

Community outreach was seen as important, too. Member Jan McClure said the city’s love of its trees in well-known, but there is a perception that “We cut them down but don’t replace them.” She also said the city’s outreach around trees is limited to Arbor Day.

Concord loves its street trees so much, it branched out and created a policy two years ago dedicated to best practices for their management, protection, and replacement.

The city’s official policy, created in 2016, is four pages long and instructs the city council to view these streets as a “fragile public resource” and “an important element of the urban forest.”

Through proper tree maintenance, the policy looks to strengthen the community’s image, encourage pedestrian activity, increase visual interest and enhance the downtown environment, according to the policy.

Street trees are so valued in the city, there’s even a fund dedicated to them. The Urban Tree Trust Fund, established in 1999, is bolstered by donations and used for planting along the city’s urban right of ways. Currently, it has about $28,000 in reserve.

And of course, Concord is annually designated as being a “tree city” by the Arbor Day Foundation, although Fenstermacher said it’s an easy title to maintain. A city needs only to have a a tree care ordinance, a community forestry program with an annual budget of at least $2 per capita and an Arbor Day observance to be a tree city, according to the program’s website.

This wouldn’t be the first time a tree committee has taken root in Concord; one existed in the 1990s and early 2000s, Fenstermacher said. Factors that led to bringing it back include receiving feedback from residents about adding more trees and interest from previous members and the updated Main Street, which highlighted areas that could use more greenery.

Fenstermacher said the committee has already received interest in the subcommittee. Anyone interested in joining can reach out to her at City Hall.

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

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