Bedford Arbor Resources Committee Plans Town Tree Nursery

By Kim Siebert MacPhail

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Following up on an idea that the committee first conceived nine years ago—and taking into account similar initiatives in Lexington, Watertown and Waltham—the Bedford Arbor Resources Committee recently discussed starting a nursery to produce an inventory of trees for town use.

At the committee’s August 21st meeting, committee member Chris Gittens noted that town trees need to be replaced when they become diseased or die and that a typical street tree’s lifespan is about 35 years. In addition, occasionally street trees are also needed for newly developed or landscaped areas. DPW liaison Dennis Freeman estimated that the town needs about two dozen trees for public spaces annually.

Gittens, a relatively new member of the committee, revived the committee’s long-dormant idea of creating a town tree nursery, saying he’d seen an article on the subject in The Boston Globe last December. “These [nearby] towns were looking to develop their own internal sources,” said Gittens. “They had some test beds with species like Osage Orange or Sourwood. Interesting stuff…about half of the species were native. Personally, I have a bias toward native.”

Questions Gittens posed for the committee to consider included:

Would the trees be just for town use or would they be made available to homeowners too?

What would be grown?

Where would the land for the nursery be located?

Would a spigot be installed to provide water for the plantings?

Who would maintain the nursery? Volunteers? Staff?

“I had originally imagined this as a project that would be volunteer-supported,” said Gittens. “DPW would potentially be involved to establish a water source: a spigot turned on in spring and the line blown out and turned off in the fall.”

Selectman liaison Mike Rosenberg expressed concern about competing with businesses like New England Nurseries if the trees were made available to residents. The town does not get the trees they need now from an in-town source. “I always try to be vigilant about not competing with local businesses. There’s no issue if you’reproducing trees [only] for town use,” Rosenberg said.

Committee member Ralph Hammond thought there might be a once-a-year opportunity to sell spare trees to the public on Bedford Day. Also, the idea of giving a tree to each student in one of the elementary grades, as has been done in the past, or making the trees available for school projects appealed to committee members. Gittens added, “The nursery could become a resource area for something like the Middle School science curriculum.”

“Assuming we go forward with this, we need to get input and buy-in from the Selectmen, Rich Warrington and the DPW,”Jaci Edwards, committee chair, said.

Edwards has spoken with Conservation Administrator Elizabeth Bagdonas about town land that could be used. She reported that Bagdonas had a few suggestions, including a portion of the Lindau Farm land near the water tower on Pine Hill. “She was interested in the notion of us clearing out the buckthorn [an invasive species] and then replacing the buckthorn field with the nursery,” Edwards added.

Committee member Ken Prescott pointed out that the Lindau Farm land won’t always be under the protection of the Conservation Commission. Edwards responded that the land would indeed be switched from conservation to municipal control, but the Selectmen would become the supervisory body when that happens.

Edwards also had discussed the idea with Conservation Commission Chair Lori Eggert, who, Edwards said, “is really excited about it.”

Selectman Rosenberg added, “Speaking for myself, I think this is the kind of thing we would want to do whatever it takes to encourage [it]. This would engender community spirit; people would feel like they’re invested. One of the things I see happening is because you’d have a bigger supply, people would find more opportunities to plant trees for good reasons. Like the memorial trees we used to have on Mudge Way. But they don’t have to be memorial trees; you can always plant trees to commemorate something good, too.”

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