100-year-old Tree's Days Are Numbered
The ailing landmark will be removed from Church grounds as soon as possible.
The Caldwell First Presbyterian Church has announced that the century-old maple tree on the church grounds is sick and will be removed as soon as the borough issues approval.
The congregation is reportedly preparing to grieve for the impending removal of the landmark tree while Senior Pastor Dr. Richard Sommers is getting ready for a potential career first. “I’ve never planned a eulogy for a tree,” he said, “but we’re going to have some sort of an occasion marking it to celebrate the life of the tree and the shade that it has given over the years. Plans are to maintain a cross-cutting of the tree somewhere in the church.”
Sommers said that several members of the congregation have asked for the wood from the tree, but at this point they are still not sure of the condition of the tree’s insides. A number of branches in the canopy of the tree have decayed and many of the branches that look healthy from far away, in fact, have “structural defects.” They also suspect there has been significant damage to the root system.
The church’s wish is to have the tree removed before it becomes a safety concern, but they have been proactive by cordoning off the area and suspending events on the lawn near the tree until it is taken down.
“There’s sadness, it’s obvious,” said Sommers. “It’s a landmark. It’s a beautiful tree. None of us want to see it come down, but sometimes tough decisions need to be made and this time it’s in the best interest of the church and the community and their safety.”
According to the church’s resident arborist Frank Swift, who has advised the church on tree matters and performed work for them for years, the sugar maple species has been periodically affected by a condition called maple decline since the early 1900s. The causes of the disease are largely unknown, but it is suspected that pollution is at least partially to blame.
Furthermore, in his explanation to the church, Swift said, “Trees already weakened by pollutants and other environmental stresses may be increasingly susceptible to canopy failure and prone to structural defects. Maple decline may be accentuated by a series of unusual climatic events.” Though it is well-known that the October snow and ice storms wreaked havoc on many trees, it is not clear if those storms are responsible in this particular case.
Swift added, “Soil compaction due to foot traffic and lawn mower activity are very serious contributors to stress on this tree.” He said those factors have harmed the tree’s immune system and it is no longer able to heal from injuries.
The church plans to do something in the area the tree will vacate, though they fear planting another tree in the same spot is unlikely. Because there is damage to the maple’s root system, it would be an inhospitable space for another tree for quite some time.
The church is unsure when or why the tree was planted. According to Sommers, they can find no records in the Caldwell First Presbyterian Church’s 228-year history to indicate if the tree was dedicated to anyone. The tree does not predate the church.