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Microburst presents opportunities for growth, tree warden says

By Chris Maza
Longmeadow News

LONGMEADOW – While the microburst that struck the town during the severe storms on July 6 caused damage and created its fair share of challenges, Tree Warden and Tree Committee Chair Dave Marinelli said it also presented the town with opportunities.

“In these situations, I always try to find the silver lining and in this case, it’s not hard to find,” he said.

Longmeadow lost approximately 50 town-owned trees about another 100 were damaged during the weather event. He said he did not have accurate numbers regarding trees on private property. The majority of them were in some manner of poor condition.

“By in large, these trees were experiencing varying states of decay,” Marinelli said. “This is an opportunity to get those trees replaced. Essentially, this is nature’s way of pruning out the weak trees.”

Not all of the trees that were lost were in poor health, however. Marinelli specifically pointed out a healthy ash tree that had been located on the Town Green was felled in the storm. The town had recently invested money in it, having it treated for the emerald ash borer, an invasive insect native to northeastern Asia that has decimated the ash tree population in Massachusetts.

Overall, however, Marinelli said only a small percentage of the 14,000 street trees in Longmeadow.

“Once [the Department of Public Works] takes down the trunks and gets rid of the stumps, you’d hardly notice a tree was missing,” he said. Marinelli also credited the DPW and Northern Tree Service with the majority of the hard work involved with cleanup after the storm.

Compared to the October snowstorm in 2011, the tree damage from this event was relatively minor, Marinelli said. Cleanup costs from that storm were in the millions of dollars.

“When we had the debris chipped after that storm, the volume of material was the equivalent of a football field covered with a layer of woodchips 30 feet thick. There is not nearly that much damage from this storm,” he said, quick to point out the storm was still significant and caused serious safety concerns for residents.

How the town proceeds with replacing trees will depend on the tree’s location. The town has the ability to plant whatever and wherever it pleases, however, it’s not that simple. Planting trees is easy, but maintaining them and watering them regularly during their first two years is a more challenging task that is undertaken by the DPW.

“I don’t want to overwhelm our resources,” Marinelli said, noting the DPW is currently watering 40 trees.

Trees on the tree belt are often planted at the request of property owners and those people traditionally take on the responsibility of watering those trees. Since October 2018, the town has planted 90 trees.

“Normally we wait for people to ask for them rather than seek out places to plant trees and then expect people who didn’t necessarily want them to take care of them,” he said.

For more information on public trees, contact Marinelli at treewarden@longmeadow.org.