Concord trees are in danger, but work is being done to save them

Welcome to the Trees Issue. Kinda random, right? I know – how can someone make a whole newspaper issue about trees? What is there to report about trees, anyway? They probably make terrible interview subjects.

Well, the truth is, there’s a lot of tree-related news in the city, and not all of it is good. While the Insider tends not to be a Debbie Downer type of publication, facts are facts, and the facts surrounding the capital city’s trees are mostly alarming.

Concord Public Information Officer Stefanie Breton, of the City Manager’s Newsletter fame, sent over a huge packet of information about what’s going on with the city’s trees, as well as non-depressing tree-related events coming up in the near future. Earth Day is April 22 and Arbor Day is April 26, so April is a very tree-focused month throughout the country, and it’s no different here.

The following is taken from a 2016 report to the mayor and city council from Senior Planner Beth Fenstermacher, Parks and Recreation Director David Gill and General Services Director Chip Chesley regarding the impact of invasive species in Concord:

“Recently, the Concord area has been subject to invasive insect species that will have a major impact on the tree populations within the City. The species include the Emerald Ash Borer, Hemlock Woolly Adelgid, and the Red Pine Scale. All three species are fatal to the infected trees though it may take several years for the trees to succumb after the initial infestation. Based on these three species it is estimated that approximately 20 percent of the trees on City owned parks, and cemeteries will succumb to invasive insects in the next 5 years. This 20 percent is in addition to normal loss of trees due to natural tree decline and weather related damages. All ash trees within the City will succumb to EAB by 2020-2023. Because of this it is imperative that the City establish a framework for invasive insect species management to detect, contain, and mitigate the impacts.

“Of the three, the Woolly Adelgid is the most treatable, mainly by ‘painting’ the tree trunks with an insecticide. The Emerald Ash Borer can also be treated by an insecticide, but involves an injection system which can be expensive over time and is usually focused on trees of historic significance or where the cost of removal outweighs the cost of treatment. Some predators of the Emerald Ash Borer have recently been released in the Concord area by the New Hampshire Division of Forests and Lands Forest Health Program, but it is too early to assess any results. There are no recommended treatments for trees infested with the Red Pine Scale, though small ornamental shrubs could be treated with certain pesticides. Harvesting infected trees during winter months will prevent spread of the scale.”

Yikes – so the city could lose every ash tree by next year if left alone. Luckily, the city has taken plenty of action on the tree front.

In February 2017, close to 200 red pines at Rollins Park were found to be infected with scales and were taken down, along with an adjacent white pine plantation. While it took a lot of the natural appeal away from the park, it was a necessary move, as the trees would’ve soon fallen anyway, potentially hurting or killing people in the process.

In December 2018, a trees subcommittee of the Conservation Commission was established to promote tree plantings and maintenance on public and private property to enhance the urban tree canopy.

“The idea had been festering for awhile,” said Fenstermacher, now assistant city planner. There had been a committee about 20 years ago, she said, but it was dismantled after not long.

“Various people suggested we get this started again, and General Services asked about it too, since we’ve taken all these trees down,” she said. “I think the big infestations were really what kind of pushed it.”

Now, after all those gloom-and-doom stats, there’s something of a success story to report. On Arbor Day last year, preschoolers from Woodside School helped plant a maple tree at Rollins Park, one of two that were planted that day. About a week later, close to 50 more trees were planted at the park, many coming from residents via the city’s Adopt-A-Tree program. The park is slowly but surely coming back to life, and work will continue there.

The approved plan for the revitalized Rollins Park includes a shaded area and educational space with an edible garden featuring fruit trees and shrubs. This space will be used for outdoor lessons and things of that nature, Fenstermacher said. This part of the park is expected to be finished some time this spring, with the hope that volunteers will adopt the space and maintain it.

Also included in the Rollins plan are several man-made shaded structures. One is already in place, a metal roof hung from a post (it’s like a gazebo with no sides) over near the tennis and basketball courts. Work will continue this spring and into the summer.

Author: Jon Bodell

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