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Third Street spruce tree coming down

Locations: News Published

Poses a hazard

By John Colson

Sopris Sun Staff Writer

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The Carbondale Board of Trustees has agreed that a large, mature spruce tree on South 3rd Street, immediately south of the Carbondale Branch Library, should come down because it presents a hazard to the library, neighboring homes and the adjacent Bridges High School building.

The board came to that conclusion at a work session on Tuesday night, a meeting at which no decisions can be formally made or formal votes taken under the town’s charter, but where the trustees were able to give “direction” that concurs with the Tree Board’s decision to pull the tree down.

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The tree, which is believed to be about 80 years old, leans (some might even say, looms) over the street, and the precarious appearance of the leaning tree recently prompted a neighboring homeowner to call the town offices and ask that the matter be studied.

Aspen Tree Service was hired to analyze the tree and report to town Arborist David Coon and the Carbondale Tree Board, which then brought the matter to the board of trustees — something that Town Manager Jay Harrington admitted on Tuesday was not a normal procedure.

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The Tree Board is made up of volunteers who advise the town’s public works department on matters relating to trees and the urban canopy.

“We usually don’t bring tree removal issues to the town board,” Harrington said as he introduced Coon and Tree Board member Gabe Riley to the trustees.

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But, Coon told the trustees, “The tree has a pretty significant lean (and) the health of the tree is pretty bad,” which he said is clear from the fact that the canopy of the tree in question is thinner and less healthy looking than other trees lined up along that section of 3rd Street.

Plus, Harrington noted, the possible loss of yet another relatively ancient spruce tree in that part of town — several similar trees were taken out in 2012 to make room for construction of the library — was deemed sufficiently important to get the trustees’ input.

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At the time of library construction, a sidewalk built along 3rd Street was curved around the tree in an effort to minimize any damage to the tree’s roots.

But, Harrington added, there was some trenching done in the area of the tree as part of the construction work, and that might have caused problems for the tree’s continued health.

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“We did try to preserve this tree,” Harrington told the trustees.

Trustee Frosty Merriott, who was a trustee in 2012 and publicly argued against the removal of trees to make room for the library, suggested the town check with local log-home builder John Ackerman about making some use of this tree once it is taken down.

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He also suggested that the town embark upon a “heritage tree program” to preserve big, old trees for as long as possible, and to begin a program of planting replacement trees for every one that comes down for whatever reason.

Trustee Katrina Byars, after lauding Merriott’s suggestions and adding one of her own — to plant two trees for every one that comes down — said that she would like to see efforts made to save the tree in question if possible.

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“There’s all kinds of great reasons to keep it,” she said, ticking off such things as habitat for birds (she recalled that owls used to roost in the group of trees under discussion) and the tree’s role in reducing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

A native of Carbondale, Byars noted that “this tree has been leaning my entire life,” and urged the town to take all possible measures to save it, such as moving the sidewalk, which currently is within the tree’s “drip line” and thus is putting pressure on the roots, further away from the tree.

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But Tree Board member Dan Bullock pointed out that “there is rot at the bottom of the tree,” and it likely will fall down of its own accord at some point in the not too distant future.

Riley, in a conversation following the meeting, pointed out that such trees generally live for 140 years or more.

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But Coon said that, as an urban tree that has undergone various stresses in its life, “It’s done really well.”

Coon, Riley and Bullock all agreed that the Tree Board should look into the trustees’ suggestions and report back in the future.

In the meantime, Coon said the spruce in question will be scheduled for removal, though he was not sure when that will happen.

Published in The Sopris Sun on December 22, 2016.