FROM THE TOWN ADMINISTRATOR’S DESK
The rejuvenation of the Town Common took an important step forward at the Selectmen’s meeting held last Monday as final decisions regarding what existing trees should be removed and replaced with new trees. The decisions on the trees allows for the final design of the proposed Veteran’s Honor Role Memorial and the new layout for the remainder of the Common to advance to the bidding phase followed by construction which is anticipated to take place this coming fall.
After a large number of public comments about the trees on the Common where heard over two evenings of testimony, the Selectmen concluded that of the 20 existing trees, 5 diseased trees should be replaced. This includes three magnolia trees that are not healthy at all and two maples that also have significant health issues and are in the way of constructing the new Veteran’s Honor Role. A large elm and a large linden tree, which were part of the discussion for possible removal, will not be taken down and the plans revised slightly in order to save them.
The new layout for the Common will provide more grass areas as walkways are reduced and more trees as a total of 9 new trees will be planted (down from 11 now that two fewer trees are being removed.) A sketch of the new layout as well as a site plan can be viewed at the Town’s web site. The sketch, layout and stakes locating proposed new trees can be found on the Common as well.
One of the bigger take-aways from comments provided during the tree hearing is the need for public tree maintenance. The limited dollars currently budgeted for trees along public ways and on town-owned property do not cover the cost of removing all the dead and diseased trees that pose a public safety hazard not to mention the cost of caring and feeding the rest of our public trees. We have increased our annual tree budget from $15,000 to $28,000 over the last few years but we will need to budget much more than this to implement a comprehensive program of caring for and replacing town trees.
The Town has benefited from the private efforts of the Friends of Manchester Trees for years. The “Friends” have collected donations using the funds to plant new trees throughout town, benefiting us all. The organization continues to contribute to the beauty of Manchester and works closely with long time Town Tree Warden Tom Henderson. Efforts are currently underway to help develop more detailed policies regarding the care and maintenance of public trees. For additional information on FOMT go to www.getrootedmanchester.org.
Trees provide a host of environmental and societal benefits. And a new addition to the list of benefits is the role trees play in countering the accumulation of green house gasses causing climate change. A new study shows how planting trees is one of our most cost effective strategies to mitigate climate change impacts.
The Selectmen take their role as arbiters of public trees seriously and will continue to pursue policies, budgets and decisions that promote their health and beauty.