The big trees of Montpelier’s downtown are a gift of shade on a sunny summer day. The largest of them are all green ash, which are vulnerable to the emerald ash borer. The Tree Board and the Parks Department have worked together to treat them with a systemic pesticide that will keep the borer at bay, but together the two agencies are also working on plans to add more trees to the downtown.
Beginning June 1 a section of the sidewalk in front of Mad Taco will be cut and removed and a hole three feet deep excavated. By the end of the day the hole should be filled back in with layers of different size stone and a mix of compost and biochar. Shortly thereafter a new sidewalk will be poured and a new swamp white oak tree planted in an iron grate. Once this tree is in place, we will move on to a second tree, a honey locust, in front of Yankee Spirits, and then later in June two more trees, species to be decided, will be planted in front of Rabble Rouser and Pho Thai. Stores will remain open during construction.
Using techniques developed in Stockholm and further proven out in Minneapolis, the extensive subsurface work being done ensures the trees will not only grow but will thrive. For those who have seen the history of trees trying to live on our downtown streets, you know it is a tough place. The single greatest challenge to growing trees downtown has been the lack of soil volume under the sidewalk in which tree roots can grow. When you add additional challenges of salt; cigarette butts; bumps by cars, bikes, and snowplows; the average life of our downtown trees in the past was only 7 years. These new plantings will solve many of those problems by increasing soil volume, providing nutrients for tree roots, biochar for filtration, and protection from mechanical damage. This technique will have an added advantage of adding stormwater filtration to our planting sites by diverting water out of our sewers and into the permeable soil below the sidewalk.
We know any construction on downtown sidewalks is an inconvenience, and our careful planning should minimize the disruption; we estimate construction will be a week or less for each of the four trees. Merchants have been notified and are excited about having more trees in the downtown.
Funding for the project comes from an ongoing proactive plan with the city to minimize the impact of the emerald ash borer, as well as a great deal of support from the Department of Public Works and the Parks and Trees Department. Two significant grants awarded by the Vermont Urban and Community Forestry and the Montpelier Foundation have enabled us to get all four trees planted this summer. Based on this summer’s experience we are planning on planting at least two more trees next year.
The Tree Board also welcomes tax-deductible contributions of any size from community members who want to see more trees growing downtown. For more information, please contact John Snell, Tree Board (email@example.com).