Pearl Street tree removal incites sign protest
Camden — A large maple tree on Pearl Street bears a handwritten sign warning against cutting the tree down.
In a letter to the editor, Pearl Street property owner Abigail Rockwell said she did not receive notification of the intended cutting from the town; that was confirmed by Town Manager Patricia Finnigan, who described it as "an oversight that she didn't get one."
"Most of these trees were here long before we got here. We should respect, cherish, value and take care of them," Rockwell wrote. " ... Once these trees are gone, there is no replacing them."
The sign, bound to the tree with fluorescent flagging tape, reads: "Don't touch these trees!! They will be protected at any cost!! They are the protectors of my prop. Sign [sic] Serious Property Owner. Thank you."
Nine letters signed by Finnigan and Tree Warden Barton Wood and procured by the Camden Herald were sent to Roula Giannos, Janet Haisey, Whitney and Marcellina Walker, Lars and Ingrid Ellison, Carolyn Kelly and Charlotte Simon, Jonathan Carlson, Mark Haskell, Rosemary Curtis and Paula Blanchard. Letters sent to the residents cited issues with the trees ranging from rot, broken or dead tops to split or cracked trunks. Each of the trees is a type of maple.
Finnigan said the process for removal of diseased or dead trees is "complaint-based," as it was in the case of the trees on Pearl Street. She said the tree warden received complaints about several trees' being potential hazards on Pearl Street.
"If somebody calls and asks [the town] to look at it, he goes out," Finnigan said." ... the tree warden constantly keeps vigil over the trees."
She noted there is a town list of trees considered "in trouble" and those are monitored by not only the tree warden, but also Central Maine Power Co. crews trimming near power lines. In the case of Pearl Street, Finnigan said, there were "a number of trees on that street that were dead or dying, and people were complaining."
The decision to remove some of those trees was not made lightly, she said.
"Pearl Street had been on his radar for a while," Finnigan said. " ... the trees really make people think fondly of Pearl Street."
Usually, the tree warden consults with an arborist to determine if a tree needs to come down, but in this case, an extra step was taken. A former Maine Forest Service employee -- Finnigan noted the town was not made aware he had retired until after letters went out -- also came to Camden to assess the trees and offer "a totally independent source" of evaluation. Finnigan said the tree warden has a list of companies licensed for tree work and he rotates work among them.
"Ultimately, it's the tree warden's decision," she said, adding that no further town approval is required.
Selectmen recently approved forest management practices for the town, and tree trimming and cutting fall under the stewardship program, Finnigan said.
Finnigan said only a few property owners approached the town to ask questions.
"A few residents asked questions," she said. "99 percent were understanding once it was explained."
Finnigan said as much trimming as could be done to save the trees had already taken place.
"This was just focusing on the ones that needed to be removed," she said, adding the town is authorized to cut trees that pose a hazard.
Finnigan said she is not aware of any other areas of Camden in a similar situation to Pearl Street's. The trees on Pearl Street were likely planted, if not at the same time, then in years close together. Nor is she aware of plans for any other large-scale cutting, she said.
Funding for tree removal comes from the tree maintenance account, which is funded at a level of $15,000 per year, according to Finnigan.