2014-07-10 / Front Page

Future of tree up in the air

By Ben Meiklejohn
Staff Writer


Heart of Biddeford’s Adopt-A-Park Committee is asking the city to devise a plan for the large spruce tree in front of city hall. The tree is used for holiday decorations in the winter. Its branches can be seen engulfing a lamp post at left. (Ben Meiklejohn photo) Heart of Biddeford’s Adopt-A-Park Committee is asking the city to devise a plan for the large spruce tree in front of city hall. The tree is used for holiday decorations in the winter. Its branches can be seen engulfing a lamp post at left. (Ben Meiklejohn photo) BIDDEFORD – Heart of Biddeford’s Adopt-A-Park Committee wants the city to consider options for managing the large spruce tree in front of city hall – including removal.

According to City Manager John Bubier’s report to the city council, the committee approached him with three possible actions: the city either remove and replace the spruce with a smaller tree, remove the tree, or prune the tree to four feet from the ground, which is the favored option.

Holly Culloton, chairman of the Adopt-A-Park Committee and president of Heart of Biddeford’s board of directors, said the committee is merely exploring options for how to deal with a tree that has outgrown its space.

“It’s gotten too big – that little space that it’s planted on, outside of city hall, is really conducive to a tree that’s 20 feet tall,” Culloton said. “It’s starting to cover up an entryway sign. It’s too big for its britches.”

The tree extends to the third story of city hall and is used each year for the city’s holiday season light display. Culloton said the committee has asked arborist Dale Pierson for his opinion on whether the tree can continue to be healthy in the space in the long term without encroaching on surrounding fixtures. Pierson could not be reached for comment on the tree’s condition before the Courier’s deadline.

The committee wanted to bring it to the city’s attention now, Culloton said, because autumn is the ideal time for pruning or planting new trees.

“It’s a fully mature tree, a beautiful tree,” Culloton said.

Grady Sexton, who is a member of the Downtown Development Commission, said he is unconvinced that the tree needs to be removed.

“People pay a lot of money to put trees in. It was put there for a reason—for celebrations,” Sexton said. “If it’s encroaching on signs, it’s cheaper to move the signs. Unless someone can convince me otherwise, my opinion is to leave the tree alone. I do not think it’s outgrown its usefulness.”

Sexton said as the tree gets bigger, it serves its purpose better because it can display more lights during the winter holidays. One problem, said Sexton, is that the city removed $3,000 from the public works budget this year, which would have been used to maintain and prune downtown trees.

“It doesn’t take a lot of money to trim trees,” Sexton said. “When we’re buying new police cars for the police department and trucks for public works, maybe a little bit could be allocated to trimming the trees.”

Adopt-A-Park committee member Ron Gobeil said the committee wants to raise the issue now so that the city can be prepared. The city might be replacing downtown sidewalks next year, depending on the availability of federal funds, Gobeil said. If the sidewalks are replaced around the tree, the city may want to have a plan in place for what it intends to do with the tree, he added.

“From my point of view, we’re just drawing attention to it,” Gobeil said. “No decisions have been made and we’re not advocating any one point of view. These trees do have a lifespan.” Want to comment on this story? Login to our website at courier.mainelymediallc.com and let us know your thoughts.

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