WATERVILLE — In the 1930s, Silver Street was lined with elm trees, earning the city the nickname Elm City.

The newly planted elm tree at New Dimensions Federal Credit Union in Waterville. Photo courtesy of New Dimensions Federal Credit Union

In the 1960s and ’70s, construction to develop Waterville began and destroyed more of the famed trees. The ultimate destruction of the trees came from Dutch Elm disease spreading.

As a means to honor Waterville’s history, New Dimensions Federal Credit Union planted an elm tree in 2020 that has continued growing. The credit union recently highlighted the planting with a plaque commemorating the city’s storied elm tree history, as other efforts abound to bring the trees back in small doses.

The credit union is also encouraging others to plant elm trees as well.

Waterville’s oldest elm tree, nicknamed Ellie, is located in Castonguay Square. In 2016, Ellie passed a health test. The 75-foot tree is estimated to be between 120 and 150 years old. Besides the Castonguay Square elm, the previously known larger elm trees were located in Yarmouth and Scarborough. Both of those trees were removed due to illness and proximity to roadways.

Matt Skehan, Waterville’s parks and recreation director said recently a Waterville high school student planted eight to 10 elm trees in Veterans Park. Skehan also said the city “keeps a close eye on them and they seem to be doing well.”

A row of elm tree roots typically graft together, so if an ailment affects one tree, the others typically will get sick as well. Dutch elm disease is spread by beetles as well. The trees’ limbs will appear to be dying while the leaves turn a sickly yellow color, this is known as flagging.

New Dimensions’ tree was provided and planted by Paradis Landscaping. The company did not do any fundraising for the tree.

On June 10, 2020, New Dimensions planted its tree at 94 Silver St. Their hope was that by planting one of the historic trees, they would encourage other businesses and people to do the same. As far as they know, no other business has followed suit yet.

According to New Dimensions’ CEO Ryan Poulin, nearly a year after it was planted, their tree is roughly 12 feet tall. Poulin also said they do not intend to plant any more trees, but chose to plant this one due to “the history with the city” and that significance.

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