NORWAY — Local officials say they are being proactive to preserve the downtown Main Street canopy – much of which will eventually be destroyed by the emerald ash borer.
“Having trees in the downtown area brings people to the community. It makes it an economic development issue so it’s important to keep that canopy,” Tree Warden Tish Carr told selectmen recently.
Both she and Jean Federico, education and outreach coordinator for the Oxford County Soil and Water Conservation District, were on hand at the Thursday, Feb. 18, selectboard meeting to talk about a grant Norway received to help conservationists and others address the coming devastation by the insect that is now on the New Hampshire/Maine border.
The tiny, metallic-green bug has killed tens of millions of ash trees in the United States and Canada and has moved from about 35 miles away in New Hampshire to the border in only a matter of six months or so.
Project Canopy announced last month that Norway was one of 10 Planning and Education grants awarded by the USDA Forest Service Community Forestry Assistance Program. The grants – that average $6,000 to $8,000 – are available to state, county and municipal governments, educational institutions, and nonprofit organizations for developing and implementing community forestry projects and programs.
The downtown ash trees – which have been planted over the years by Norway Downtown – are especially subject to a quick death by the bug.
Norway received an $8,000 grant in 2012, for example, to plant five trees, including a Washington Hawthorne, a variety of crab apple and fastigiate oaks to visually enhance the historic downtown area and revitalize the National Register Historic District.
The tree-planting program began along the west side of Main Street in 2006.
“They [downtown trees] have a higher probability because they are so under stress. An ash tree on a two-by-two sidewalk is not going to suffice [survive],” Carr said.
Norway will be one of the first towns to work on a municipal tree plan for the state of Maine in collaboration with the Oxford County Soil and Water Conservation District, Norway Downtown and forestry students at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School.
The work might also bring in other towns and agencies such as the Norway Lakes Association. A graduate student from University of Maine has also been working with selectboards to determine their goals for the issue.
“We can’t think of Norway as a vacuum,” said Carr.
Ash trees and probably all trees will be inventoried on Main Street and perhaps on three or four bordering streets, depending on how many students are involved. Inventories of ash tree pockets throughout town will also be made probably by car, according to Carr.
No ash tree will be saved but efforts to maintain the devastation and replant the areas can be done, Carr said.
“This isn’t going to happen over night,” Carr said. It is expected that areas of ash trees will be set up to attract the bug as “sacrifice” areas to give conservationists more time to deal with the problem.
Pleasant Street, for example, has a lot of ash, and many older ash trees.
“It may be that we decided that Pleasant Street will be the place to increase the stress on the trees and really make it the site where the EAB [bug] comes,” Carr said.
“There will be really a lot a lot of unhappy homeowners,” she noted.
The good thing is, she continued, that other trees will be replanted.
After the tree inventory is completed Carr said selectmen will be involved in developing their goals and objectives in removing and replacing the wood.
“We’ll figure out how to best take the wood that needs to be removed and how to best utilize it. There are a lot of stakeholders in this,” Carr said.
“Hopefully we will have a very well defined plan and one that can be used for a model for other communities,” said Federico.