Paul Markwalter chairs the Beacon Tree Advisory Committee. An arborist, he has tended to trees for 58 years.
What does the committee do?
We were established about four years ago to advise the city on pruning the trees it owns. There are just three members right now; we could use more volunteers — people who care about trees. We’ve inventoried about 200 city-owned trees, including in Memorial Park and along Main Street and Route 9D. We were instrumental in helping the city get a $36,000 state grant to prune 27 trees in Memorial Park and to remove 13 unhealthy trees. We also sometimes get calls from residents wanting advice.
Does Beacon need more trees?
Yes. I would like to increase the stock to 400 trees within five years. When I moved here in 2009, there was a 3-inch Norway maple sprouting out of the ground. It’s now 20 feet tall. After five years, we could have 400 trees, 5 to 6 feet tall, that could be placed all over Beacon. People would take care of a young tree on their property with the understanding that at some point we’d transplant it to a park or along a street — a foster-care program for trees. Saplings cost about a dollar each. We’ve planted 20 trees in the past few years, but they were purchased from a nursery for $150 to $250 apiece.
What are the main threats to Beacon’s trees?
Die-off along Main Street is a concern. Many trees are root-bound; the sycamores push up the sidewalks. The roots will go where they want, even through a wall. And Beacon is no different from anywhere else, with the common blights such as debarking you see on silver maples; and the white ashes and hemlocks are taking a beating. Someone planted flowering plums and pears on Main Street. They have a lot of dieback and don’t hold up to winter, so they’re not sustainable as street trees. Construction is also a concern; land is often cleared willy-nilly, with no thought to saving a tree like a 200-year-old oak. I’d like to see a law requiring people to get a permit to take down [healthy] trees.
What is it about trees that affects you?
I’m a dendrophile; I love trees. A walk in the woods restores my soul. The trees know me and I know them. They welcome me into their midst. They can exist without us, but not the reverse. Without trees we wouldn’t be here. I love Dennings Point; the trees there speak to me. And I like wood and the things we can do with it.
Do you have a favorite tree somewhere in the world?
I have pruned a lot of trees since 1963, but my favorite was a red oak in Wayne, New Jersey. With nothing around it to hinder its growth, it was a true specimen, standing about 150 feet tall and with a spread of at least 100 feet. It took so long to prune I had my lunch sent up to me so I wouldn’t have to climb it again. I’m 76 now; I climbed my last tree about five years ago.
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