WALLINGFORD — Pear trees along Quinnipiac Street scheduled to be cut down this spring won’t be replaced by a new species, Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. said Tuesday. Since other tree species considered were too expensive, the town will replant Callery pear trees, he said.
Six bids were opened by the town on March 11, the lowest of which was from Mountain View Landscapes in Chicopee, Mass. The town sought prices to furnish and plant six Rutgers hybrid dogwoods and six Japanese stewartia. According to the bid, Mountain View Landscapes would charge the town $7,920 in total – $620 per Rutgers hybrid dogwood and $700 per Japanese stewartia.
“The expense was exorbitant,” Dickinson said. Callery pears would only cost about $200 each to purchase and plant, he added.
In total, the town will replace 24 of the 28 trees that will be cut down, said Liz Landow, executive director of Wallingford Center Inc., a private, nonprofit group whose purpose is the beautification, preservation, promotion and economic revitalization of downtown. Landow said the organization worked closely with the Greening Committee, formed last fall after the town announced plans to cut down the trees. Dickinson has said future plans also call for the replacement of Callery pears on Center Street, along with parts of North and South Main streets. The trees have grown too big and are impeding power lines and business signs, Dickinson has said.
The Greening Committee is made up by local residents Bill Austin, Jared Liu and Ellie Tessmer and receives input from Landow and WCI President Steve Lazarus. Landow said the committee, with the advice of state environmental specialists, put together specifications for replacement trees that called for a certain trunk size, branch and canopy height.
Because the committee knew beforehand that certain species would be more costly, a “compromise” was made, Landow said, under which the town would go out to bid on suggestions from the committee for half the trees.
But specifications put together by the committee “drove up the price” even further, Landow said. The pear trees were subject to the same specifications, she said. Members of the committee were “adamant about the specifications,” Landow said.
“It is what it is,” she said. “Everyone is spinning it in a certain way, but there were a lot of things involved. It was not just ‘this is going to be one way or the other.’”
Regarding the town’s decision to plant Callery pears again, “That’s what they intended to do anyways,” Austin said. “Out of courtesy they said ‘we’ll sit down with these guys and schmooze them a bit and do what we want anyways.”
Specifications included a minimum branch height of six feet with trees 10 feet in height when planted, Austin said. The specifications were put in to quell the town’s concerns, he said, but in hindsight, the committee should have done away with any specifications to lessen the expense.
“Now that we have hindsight, we’ll plant smaller trees in the future,” Austin said.
Moving forward, the committee will stay intact to make sure downtown trees are properly maintained. In the past, the town did not perform annual maintenance on the pear trees. Landow said she was told that trees will be maintained in the future.
“Hopefully we are getting maintenance,” Landow said. “That’s a huge part of it.”
Robert Ricard, the senior extension educator for the University of Connecticut’s Extension Forestry Program, told the Record-Journal last July that, while Callery pears were a preferred tree years ago, “they have a lot of problems,” he said. They aren’t structurally sound, “and people generally don’t understand tree aging.”
In a perfect environment, Callery pears might live to be 40 years old, he said. Genetically they have a shorter life span, especially when planted in a small pit beside a road.
“Callery pears are not in the class of Redwoods,” Ricard said at the time. “I’m not surprised that they’re recommending taking those things out.”
While Callery pear trees were favored years ago, New Haven no longer plants them, Chris Ozyck, associate director of the city’s Urban Resources Initiative, told the Record-Journal last July. The initiative is organized by the Yale University School of Forestry.
“During the past few storms, including the snowstorms and hurricane event, pears were one of the most common trees to come down,” Ozyck said. “They have a large cell structure that makes them prone to damage.”