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Arborist recommends trying to save Tenney tree at Ascutney park-and-ride

  • An old, dying maple tree that stands Monday, Oct. 28, 2019, in a commuter parking lot off Interstate 91 in Ascutney, Vt. The land was once part of a farm belonging to Romaine Tenney, whose farm was seized in 1964 to make way for the interstate highway. Tenney burned his barn and his home, with him inside. The tree is going to be removed and the state of Vermont is now looking for a way to remember Tenney. (AP Photo/Wilson Ring) ap — Wilson Ring

Valley News Correspondent
Published: 12/27/2019 10:22:09 PM
Modified: 12/27/2019 10:21:58 PM

ASCUTNEY — The Tenney tree might not be cut down after all.

Lee Stevens, a certified New Hampshire arborist from Claremont and owner of Log Cabin Nursery, inspected the large maple tree — the last visible piece of the late Romaine Tenney’s farm — earlier this month and made some recommendations that the Weathersfield Selectboard is urging the state to follow.

However, the board has no interest in entering into a contract with Stevens or anyone else to do the work, as the state suggested in a Dec. 12 email from Andrea Wright, environmental services manager with the Vermont Agency of Transportation.

“They were gracious enough to offer to get a second opinion and we got that opinion and it has been helpful,” Selectboard member Dave Fuller said during the Dec. 16 board meeting. “But we don’t own the tree. We don’t own the site.”

The tree sits at the edge of the park-and-ride lot off Exit 8 of Interstate 91 in Ascutney. Tenney, who grew up on the farm that his father bought in the late 1800s, died by suicide in April 1964 when he set fire to his farmhouse properties after the state served him with papers earlier that day to seize his land for construction of the interstate.

Earlier this year, a state arborist with the Agency of Transportation said the tree was in an advanced state of decline with a lot of decay and could not be saved. Additionally, the state said it was a safety hazard because limbs could fall on vehicles or people. Several parking spaces near the tree have been blocked off as a result.

The AOT then held a public meeting with residents in late October to discuss ideas for memorializing Tenney. Instead, officials got an earful of objections to cutting the tree down. Residents demanded that state get a second opinion, which it did from Stevens.

Stevens, with town and state officials present, inspected the tree on Dec. 6 and recommended in the next several weeks removal of invasive plants around the base to improve hydration, removal of dead limbs, inspection of the cable holding the two live branches and removal of the other two cables that are not functional anymore.

“When viewing the tree from the back, there is callous wood on each side where a large limb broke off years ago,” Stevens said, according to meeting minutes. “The tree has created its own calloused area as a compensation to survive, which is evident through the raised area around the breaking point. This is a good sign.”

Stevens further recommended the condition of the tree be checked again in the spring and possibly applying Cambistat, a chemical that is applied which Stevens described as a “growth retardant that has been shown effective in slowing the decay on stressed trees, and in some instances actually promoted growth.”

Stevens also said maple saplings are not visible around the tree but that should be further investigated in the spring.

The wood from the dead limbs would be stored by the state and could possibly be used in the creation of memorial to Tenney in consultation with Tenney family members.

On Dec. 12, Wright, the AOT official, emailed the town suggesting it contract with Stevens to have the work done. Wright said the AOT has been discussing the “most efficient means” of getting the work done and then proposed the town contract with Stevens.

“Not only would this provide efficiency in that the tree would be cut by the same entity that the certified arborist services come from but also in that it would reduce administrative resources related to the method of contracting,” Wright wrote.

She further proposed a memorandum of understanding on what expenses the town incurs would be reimbursable, leaving open the possibility of the town incurring some costs.

At the Dec. 16 Selectboard meeting, the board concluded its discussion on the tree by agreeing to tell the Wright it supports Stevens’ recommendations and wants memorial options to be considered but will not enter into a contract for the work.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached a pogclmt@gmail.com




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