WEATHERSFIELD, Vt. — The arborist who recommended the removal of the “Tenney Sugar Maple” to the state said yesterday that the tree’s proximity to the Ascutney Park-and-Ride poses too great of a safety risk to consider letting it die naturally.
Scott Hance, a certified arborist with EIV Technical Services, a Winooski-based environmental contractor, conducted a six-month assessment of the maple tree for the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans). Hance’s study initiated in March 2019 and included multiple site visits. He submitted his report to the state on Sept. 16.
In a letter to VTrans that accompanied the report, Hance wrote that the tree “is at the end of its long life” and its state “poses a high risk to people and personal property.”
In an interview with the Eagle Times, Hance said that the tree’s condition is unsafe for a public area.
“Nobody wants any more than me to let this tree live out its life,” Hance said. “But unless the state moves the park-and-ride, there’s too much risk of one of those branches falling and hurting someone.”
The tree, which is more than a century old, is the last standing maple from the land once held by Romaine Tenney, the Weathersfield farmer who tragically took his life in 1964, just before the state evicted him from his home to clear way for the construction of Interstate 91. The nature of Tenney’s death and the circumstances behind it still resonates strongly with Tenney’s family and the Weathersfield community.
VTrans left the maple tree standing alongside the park-and-ride as a living reminder of Tenney, his life and the impact that the interstate project had on the Vermont way of life.
Today, however, that tree is “98% dead,” Hance said.
Field photos by Hance in March show a sizeable cavity in the trunk due to “severe heart rot” and infestation by wood-boring insects and fruiting fungi.
“Sugar maples have a lot of insects and pathogens that they have to overcome, especially when in a public area,” Hance said. “Everytime I went by I’d see more dead branches on the pavement.”
Though not included in the report summary to the state, Hance said that they took photos during the summer of people standing beneath branches that hang above the parking lot to illustrate the potential danger. The photos were somewhat poorer in quality due to the foggy weather, so Hance did not include them with the report.
“I did not expect there to be a controversy at the time,” he explained.
Nor did VTrans expect on Monday, during its community forum in Weathersfield, that many residents in attendance were more interested in protecting the tree instead of discussing ways to repurpose the tree’s wood for a new memorial.
“It should be allowed to die [a natural death],” Weathersfield Selectman N. John Arrison told VTrans representatives. “Rather than be brought down by a chainsaw.”
Hance disagreed with the assertions by residents that the tree can be saved.
“If anyone can show me their research how to bring a tree that’s 98% dead back to life, I would love to see it,” Hance said. “If they can show me that evidence, I would be happy to present it to the state.”
If this tree was in an open field or somewhere removed from the public, Hance said he would much rather let the tree decay and die naturally. But, since closing the park-and-ride was never given as an option, leaving the tree standing is too high a risk.
Hance also noted that the state already extended the tree’s life by use of leaders and cables, which personnel connected to the tree about 12 years ago. The cables and leaders help reduce the tree’s stress to hold its structure, and likely bought the tree some additional years, according to Hance.
But, the rot and decay from fungi, disease and insects is too extensive at this point.