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Tree Disease Closes Trail; Hanover Will Remove Diseased Pine Trees

  • Pine Park Commissioner Linda Fowler returns from a walk on the closed Cathedral Aisle Trail with Valley News writer Jared Pendak where over four acres of pines have been exposed to the fungus Rhizosphaera, or needle cast, Thursday, Jan. 10, 2018. In an effort to stop the spread of the disease, trees that have already begun to die will be cut in the coming weeks. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Pine trees in Pine Park in Hanover, N.H. have begun dying due to infection by Rhizosphaera fungus, or needle cast. The fungus weakens the trees and then allows attack by root rot and red turpentine beetles. About 100 trees covering over four acres of the park are expected to be cut in the coming weeks. Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Pine Park Commissioner Linda Fowler said, during a walk in the Hanover, N.H., park with Valley News writer Jared Pendak, Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019, that the park between the Connecticut River and the Hanover Country Club was likely once unforested pastureland. She speculates that after the effects of a Rhizosphaera infection threatening the park's pines resolves that the forest could be made up of mainly beeches and hemlocks. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Saturday, January 12, 2019

Hanover — A cherished trail in Pine Park likely will be closed for at least a year, and other areas will be temporarily closed because of a bevy of diseased pine trees across more than 4 acres of the park north of downtown Hanover.

A hiker’s tip in November about numerous dead trees leaning over the Cathedral Aisle Trail — named because of the arching, canopy-like effect of the towering pines within it — got the attention of Dartmouth College arborist Brian Beaty, according to Pine Park Association President Linda Fowler.

A subsequent visit from Kyle Lombard, New Hampshire’s forest health program coordinator, revealed that dead trees spanning 4 to 5 acres in the park have suffered from various fungal afflictions. They include Rhizosphaera, or needle cast, an airborne disease that strips pines of all but their youngest needles, and root rot, which attacks the tree from underground.

The dead trees — eyesores amid an otherwise pristine landscape in a popular and historic park abutting the Connecticut River and Hanover Country Club — also may have been attacked by turpentine beetles, which bore into the bark of stressed or diseased pines.

Many of the trees are more than 100 feet tall and nearly as many years old.

“It’s hard to know what started it, but trees are more susceptible when there is a high density of large trees in close proximity,” Lombard said on Thursday. “Needle cast is something that has been affecting forests across New Hampshire. We had a wicked drought in 2016 and it was hard on a lot of our forests, especially in areas near rivers, where the soil is sandy. Once needle cast sets in, things tend to snowball from there.”

While the trees are yet to be counted or marked, they’re visible in blighted swaths along southern portions of the approximately quarter-mile Cathedral Aisle Trail, which connects the center-of-the-park Esker Trail to the Girl Brook Trail, which circuits the park and is its most used trail.

Cathedral Aisle has been closed since early December as the Pine Park Association, the town of Hanover and Dartmouth College have begun plans to remove the dead trees. (Under an agreement dating to 1913, the nonprofit association owns the park’s roughly 95 acres while the town and college oversee its maintenance).

The removal project could last two to three weeks, depending on weather conditions, and will result in closings of most of the trail network as well as the parking lot on Hilton Field Road abutting the Hanover Country Club golf course, which will be used as a staging area, Fowler said. The portion of the golf course near the parking lot that is popular for sledding also will be off limits during the project, she added.

Dartmouth facilities operations and management staff on Thursday indicated they hope the project will be underway in the coming weeks to avoid potential conflicts during mud season. A Pine Park Association document regarding the situation lists Jan. 23 to Feb. 6 as a possible window.

“We know we want it to take place in the winter, because the area can get very muddy if you wait too long,” said Tim McNamara, Dartmouth’s associate director of facilities and operations. “There are a lot of logistics and things to consider in terms of what methods to use, because it’s a narrow trail and we’ll be bringing (the felled trees) across part of a golf course.”

Fowler, a professor of government emerita at Dartmouth, is wary of the potential proliferation of invasive species once the trees are felled, especially since deer will be wont to snack on the non-invasive young growth that replaces them. Deer overpopulation has been an issue for years in Hanover, which last year attempted to address it in part by piloting a special hunting program that granted 100 hunters with permits to take up to two antlerless dear, a first for a New Hampshire municipality.

“There are so many deer through here all the time, and the only thing they don’t eat is beech,” Fowler said. “We have to think of ways to protect anything that we replant.”

Even once the rest of the park is reopened following the tree removal project, Cathedral Aisle Trail will remain closed until at least next winter for replenishment management, Fowler said.

Hanover’s oldest permanently preserved natural area, Pine Park is popular among hikers, cross country skiers and snowshoers, among other non-motorized activities.

Aside from the trail and sledding area closures during the project, neighbors of the park can expect increased truck traffic and noise from the logging activities, officials said.

Those interested in the timing of the project should check http://campus-services.dartmouth.edu for updates, McNamara said.

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3216.