Trees on Friday that were recently cut down on Gardiner Common. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan Buy this Photo

The Gardiner Common will have a new look this spring, after 10 trees have been taken down and other trees have been trimmed.

A look inside Friday at the rot in one of the trees cut down on the Gardiner Common. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan Buy this Photo

The trees, including Norway maples, ash and oak, all showed signs of rot in the trunks, which made them a hazard to public safety.

“We had a couple of trees on the Common that were very decayed and were becoming a safety hazard,” Gardiner City Manager Christine Landes said Friday.

The city hired Dana Lawrence Tree Service to take them down, she said. In the process of doing so, Lawrence looked at other trees and identified about eight more that should also come down, due to rot in the trunks.

“Being rotted from the inside out, they become very fragile,” Landes said.

One posed a threat to the gazebo, she said, and another to the historic Palmer fountain. To mitigate the danger, she said, she authorized the additional trees to be taken down.

“There is a plan to replant, and it will take time for the trees to grow,” Landes said.

The move has been welcomed by Gardiner Main Street, which has a Streetscape Team that has been interested in the care of city trees in the Common as well as Waterfront Park and the city’s historic downtown neighborhood.

Robert Abbey, vice president of the Main Street Gardiner board of directors and co-chairperson of the organization’s Streetscape Team, said the move has been overdue.

“This is a project we’ve been looking at for a couple of years,” he said. “For the last two years, Gardiner Main Street in coordination with the city, we wanted to see some time and effort into looking at the trees.”

The trees in the Common are some of the oldest in the city, and many of them have been showing signs of extensive rot in the trunks and boughs damaged in storms, Abbey said.

“Some of these trees were in danger of being toppled by storms,” he said.

The last time an inventory of Gardiner’s trees was conducted was in the wake of the 1998 ice storm, Abbey said.

“We’d like to develop a plan (for replanting) and the city has authorized a formal committee to look at this,” he said.

Some of the trees that have been removed from the Common were so twisted and broken that they had no value, and were blocking the growth of other trees.

Abbey said the tree in the worst condition was next to the playground.

“We don’t want to wait until the next ice storm to prune the trees and to make this a healthier crop,” he said. “I think the Common is going to be beautiful this summer when (the remaining trees) are all filled out.”

The Gardiner Common, originally known as Brunswick Square, is one of Maine’s earliest designed landscapes, according to the Cultural Landscape Foundation, a nonprofit that promotes connection with landscape heritage.

Robert Gardiner, grandson of city founder Silvester Gardiner, donated the property in 1824 because he wanted to provide a public walk and parade ground, and he wanted to increase the value of his property around the park.

“He also wanted to improve the appearance of the town founded by his grandfather, requiring in his will that the town maintain existing rows of trees, separate walkways from roads with an ornamental fence, and add no permanent buildings,” the history reads. “Should the town not abide by these stipulations, the three-acre site would revert to Gardiner’s heirs.”

Abbey said the Common has been the Streetscape Team’s agenda for this year. Volunteers, with support from the city, have started replacing the rails on the historic fence that surrounds the park.

One of the team’s other projects this year was to raise funds to repair the Palmer fountain, named for a Civil War physician, but that has been put on hold for now, Abbey said.

Landes said the city will bid out the removal of the wood to pay for the project, and any money left over will be donated to the food bank.


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