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City tree canopy is in for some changes, not of our own doing

  • Aerial photo shows location of red pine grove in Rollins Park in Concord that is infected with red pine scale and will probably have to be cut down. The white pine grove is not infected.

  • Map of invasive outbreaks in Concord

  • The last rays of sun hit a grove of pine trees behind the playground in Rollins Park in Concord on Friday, April, 15, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)



Monitor staff
Thursday, May 05, 2016

With insect-borne diseases taking aim at two major tree species in the city – ash and red pine – the city’s Sustainable Tree Program is looking more useful than ever.

“We’re going to be losing some of the canopy we have,” said Ryan Rambeau, Concord city arborist, during a presentation from state and city officials Wednesday night at the Parks and Recreation office in Concord.

The presentation, which drew about a dozen residents and landscape officials, was prodded by the realization that there’s little that can be done about red pine scale and emerald ash borer beside culling trees, and expensive, ongoing treatment for some special specimens.

The diseases have already begun to kill trees in Concord and many surrounding towns, according to officials. They say it will probably lead the city to cut hundreds of red pines clustered in Rollins Park and elsewhere before red pine scale ruins their commercial value, and cut a number of isolated ash trees before

they’re damaged by the emerald ash borer beetle.

Public sessions will be scheduled before major cutting takes place, officials have said.

Among those who attended Wednesday’s session were Claudia and Ed Damon of Fisk Road, who have one ash tree that they say does not yet show crown dieback or other signs of strain from the emerald ash borer, as well as “a handful of trees that I look at every spring,” Claudia said.

Ed added, “We love trees. We are concerned.”

The meeting, which featured experts from UNH Cooperative Extension and the New Hampshire Division of Lands and Forests, also drew five students from the Cheshire Career Center attached to Keene High School. Horticulture teacher John Mitchell brought them as part of an urban arboriculture class.

“Keene is proud of its trees. This covered a lot of things that we are interested in,” Mitchell said.

In Concord itself, there’s another issue beyond the high-profile diseases: time.

“Many of these trees were planted in the 1940s and ’50s, are reaching the pinnacle and they’re starting to decline,” Rambeau said.

That arboreal demographic is part of the reason why the city started the Sustainable Tree Program about four years ago, providing up to two replacement trees for about 25 to 30 city residents each year, as long as the tree being replaced is along or close to a city street or visible right-of-way.

City residents who have questions about the program or a tree they think needs replacing can call general services at 228-2737 or check the city’s website, ConcordNH.gov.

“There’s nobody telling you when you need to remove your tree. It will be up to you on a case-by-case basis,” said Amy Papineau of the UNH Cooperative Extension. “Removing it before it become hazardous is really the goal.”

The meeting contained a host of useful information from how to identify ash trees (it’s one of the few trees in the region with branches that grow opposite each other of the trunk, instead of alternating – plus it has compound leaves) to the best methods of planting replacements, including the need to avoid piling up a “mulch volcano” to strangle a new tree.

New Hampshire has compiled plenty of information about red pine scale, which is caused by a tiny tick-like insect – called scale – and emerald ash borer, along with other bug-born tree diseases at NHbugs.org.

Red pine scale was first spotted in New Hampshire at Bear Brook State Park in 2012 and the emerald ash borer was found in Concord, its first New Hampshire sighting, only in 2013.

Last year, Concord cut down acres of red pine trees in a city forest on West Locke Road that were infected by scale, getting about $3,000 from a lumber sale before the disease started staining the wood, lowering the value.

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or dbrooks@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @GraniteGeek)