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Jeffery Kurz

Tree replacement becomes effort by whole community

This is a good time to be thinking about trees, on account of how they have a way of asserting themselves on our attention this time of year. I used to think I knew a thing or two about them, but now I’m not so sure.

What I know is basically what you learn in grade school, when you go out and collect leaves and identify them as coming from a maple, or elm, or whatever. But now, thanks to Wallingford, I’m beginning to look at trees in a different way. I don’t know of any municipality that spends as much time worrying about trees and about finding the right trees for the right spots.

There are 28 trees on Quinnipiac Street that were going to be cut down. That was supposed to happen early this month, which struck me as a not-so-great time to be taking trees down, but apparently I’m wrong about that. In any case, the trees are still standing. These are Callery pear trees, which I’d never heard of until I started reading about their plight in Wallingford, but a little investigating tells me they’re from China and Vietnam, and have been imported many times to the U.S. They’re considered a nuisance by the town, as in town administration, which is why they’re going to be cut down.

A downtown organization, Wallingford Center Inc., asked the town to act not so fast, and what has ensued is really a remarkable situation, with a local group forming a Greening Committee to weigh in to find the best solution possible and an administration willing to listen and others willing to help. We’ll see how it turns out, of course.

The committee is made up of local residents with some tree expertise, and Chris Donnelly, a forester employed by the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, is on hand as a consultant to the committee. One member said a month ago that Callery pears were not the right tree to plant in downtown Wallingford in the first place, because they’re weak and damage easily in rough weather.

There have been revisions to the list of tree species recommended to replace the Callery pears. Among the driving concerns is expense.

The committee now has six tree species to recommend, as reported by the Record-Journal’s Andrew Ragali.

They are: Chinese Fringtree, flowering dogwood, Amur Maackia, Japanese flowering cherry, Japanese Stewartia and Japanese snowbell. You can look them up online. The town has been asked to select three.

There has been considerable interest. About 30 people attended a Wallingford Center Inc. meeting in early August, which strikes me as a lot of people when you consider they’d gathered to talk about trees.

There has been back-and-forth. The organization wanted the planting to be staggered over a three-year period, but the town administration didn’t think that was necessary. There’s some indication, though, that the town will consider staggering the replacement in trees in other areas of downtown.

A local company, Wallingford Tree Service, has volunteered to train public works employees on proper pruning practices.

It may strike some as a lot of fuss about trees, but it’s important to consider the role they play in the overall look and atmosphere of a community. Some town residents have been upset in the past about how the town has gone about cutting down and replacing trees.

The way the town is going about it now appears to be about as positive as you could expect.

The species recommended to replace the Callery pears should flower at different times in the spring, the WCI’s president, Steve Lazarus, has said. With winter ahead, it gives you something to look forward to.

jkurz@record-journal.com (203) 317-2213



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