Stevens Hall Trees Get Clean Bill of Health

CHESTER – A burgeoning plan to remove the trees in front of Stevens Memorial Hall to redesign the area suffered a blow last week when selectmen reported that a tree expert deemed the timbers healthy. A few maples of different varieties and a spruce tree were the subject of discussion at a meeting between the selectmen and heritage commission last month, as reported by the Tri-Town Times.

As part of an effort to create a monument to the town’s founding and most active citizens, the commission suggested a revamp of the green in front of Chester’s historic former town hall. That plan called for the removal of the trees and a reconfiguration of the space, with the monument at its center. Members of the heritage commission noted the benefits of a more easily used green space and the ability to see the hall from the road as benefits to removing the trees.

That tree cutting idea had some selectmen and reportedly some residents concerned. Though members of the heritage commission surmised that the trees were dying, pointing to dead branches at their crowns, the selectmen asked Bartlett Tree Experts to investigate.

The results of that visit were reported by selectman Rich LeBlanc at the board’s Thursday, June 13 meeting. According to LeBlanc a representative from the company said the trees were healthy specimens and would last another 30 years at least. Some pruning and soil maintenance were suggested to help keep the trees healthy.
LeBlanc also noted some concern that the granite memorial could damage the root systems.

A report from the company lays out a number of efforts that would help keep the sugar maples healthy. These include efforts to improve the soil around the roots of two of the trees, fertilizer application, pest management and the removal of all dead, broken and diseased branches on the largest sugar maple.

Selectman chair Steph Landau said it was important to bring in members of the heritage commission before any decisions were made on the matter. Landau noted that he’d like to keep the trees, considering that an expert has vouched for their health and the general response from residents he has spoken with has been to keep the Stevens Hall tree situation status quo.

“I think we need to sit down and come up with something that might be palatable to everyone,” said Landau.
While Landau indicated that he had brainstormed a compromise for the area, selectman Jack Cannon said it wasn’t the selectmen’s job to come up with an idea for the space.

Cannon said the selectmen should give the commission clear guidelines on what they’d approve for the area, but designing the memorial should be in commissioners’ hands. Cannon added that he’d never sign off on the commission’s current tree cutting/centralized memorial plan. The board agreed to hold off on any work on the trees as suggested by Bartlett until they could meet with the commission.

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