There was momentary doubt as to the nature of that giant tree taken down on Tuesday between Elizabeth Taber Library and Sippican Elementary School, but there was no disagreement that its time had run out.
“It’s not dead … but it’s so compromised. … In a big storm, a limb could fall down,” said Parks and Tree Committee Chair Margie Baldwin. “There’s a hawk that likes to sit up in the top there, it’s very sad.”
As wet snow fell on Marion Tuesday morning, Harry Harmon was alone at the top of the tree. The Nadeau Tree employee surveyed, strapped and chain-sawed his way down from what he estimated was an 85-foot-tall Norway Spruce (Picea rubens.) Harmon worked in tandem with a large crane to remove giant sections that crew member Mason Shea figured could weigh north of 2,000 pounds. Together with Shayne Bradford and Duel Branco, the crew had the entire tree down before noon.
While pine trees’ needles are clustered in groups, a pulvinus on a spruce tree holds but one needle. In any case, all the needles fell to the ground on Tuesday.
Concern had recently been realized after local landscaper Steve Gonsalves began noticing unusual droppings from the tree. When he found a section of bark that felt like it had no backing support, he knew it was time to call in the professionals for a closer look. According to a press release sent out Monday by the Town of Marion, the evaluation by Bartlett Tree Experts determined “that the tree had been struck by lightning, was severely compromised and needed to be removed due to the possibility that it could fall, especially during a weather event.”
Joining Gonsalves on the sidelines as the tree came down, Marion Tree Warden Lee Gunschel paid extra attention to major sections as they were transported from the crane to small equipment on the ground and stacked out near Spring Street. Two notable pieces were found to be rotting from within, but much of the wood remains usable.
Baldwin said, based on memories shared by people in their 60s and 70s, the tree must have been “at least 100 years old.” At her request, 3 feet of the oval-shaped stump, measuring 4 1/2 feet long, was left standing. Gonsalves studied the three rings inside and estimated the tree’s age at 135-140 years.
Since 2009, the tree had brought shade to a Children’s Memorial Reading Garden honoring the lives of former Sippican School students Cory Jackson, Andrew Rego, Marques Sylvia and Alexis Wisner. Gonsalves played a key role in the installation of the garden designed by landscape architect Susannah Davis with support from the late, former Sippican Principal Mary Lou Hobson. He plans to reprise his role with wood collected from the tree.
“We’ve tried to be sensitive to the four families. The hope is to replant four trees in honor of each family,” said Baldwin. The plan, she explained, is to save some of the wood and use it to make a bench and for students to construct birdhouses.
“It’s used, the kids play under there,” said Baldwin, alluding to the colored stones under the tree where children had painted them. Come springtime, the Parks and Tree Committee hopes to involve the four families and current Sippican students as the memorial garden is rededicated.
“We know that this tree and its position as part of the memorial garden is an important part of our town and is recognizable by many; however, we must put safety first,” said Interim Town Administrator Judy Mooney in the Marion press release. “The town will support the Parks and Tree Committee as it makes plans to replace the tree so that the area can continue to be meaningful and honor the young lives that were lost.”
By Mick Colageo