2006-11-30 / Front Page

Federal grant helps pay for island forest

By Michaela Kennedy

At its Nov. 21 meetings, the town Tree Preservation and Protection Committee reviewed its final budget for the 2005 America The Beautiful Grant. Last May, the U.S. Forest Service awarded Jamestown a grant of $5,000, matched with over $19,000 in local funds for the development of a school forest park and a street renovation project. The federal funding is channeled through the state Department of Environmental Management's Division of Forest Environment and the Rhode Island Tree Council.

As part of his report, Tree Warden David Nickerson gave the committee a copy of the final budget submitted to the ATB program. The budget accounted for local funds spent and included hours spent by volunteers and the town's public works department. Time and materials were listed for street tree planting, creation of the Town Forest, and beautification of the traffic island at High Street and Walcott Avenue.

The committee recognized local support for the projects, which translated into $2,900 of volunteer work hours from Largess Forestry, Kinder Tree Service, Highline Tree Service, Nickerson Tree Service, and the Boy Scouts, as well as other local volunteers.

In a reference to the street renovation plan, the tree warden noted that the original grant included structural soil installments on Narragansett Avenue, but the state Department of Transportation delayed the work until the next fiscal year.

Explaining the need for renovation, Nickerson said, "(On) Some places on Narragansett. Avenue, the concrete upheaves from air pockets and moisture. Roots penetrate and lift the sidewalk." He added that the specially designed structural soil, a substance that soaks up and holds moisture, "meets engineering needs and creates a good growing environment for the tree roots."

In a discussion of new plantings at the traffic island, a contentious debate ensued concerning what legal authority the tree committee had to authorize plantings.

The committee voted 5-1 in favor of supporting the new plantings to remain at the corner triangle of Walcott Avenue and High Street.

Tree Committee Chairman Emmett Turley, the only vote against the motion made by committee member Patrick Driscoll, claimed that no plan for the plantings had been reviewed and approved by the committee. "I want to know a plan for trees that are planted and would like to know an irrigation system to be sure that the trees will be taken care of," Turley said.

Nickerson countered that he planted the trees on the site "in accordance with the ATB grant" which required permission from the town before the grant was approved last May.

He went on to read section 22-1- 6 B of the Tree Ordinance, "The tree committee is to support the planting and growth of trees."

Committee member Matt Largess defended Nickerson, saying, "I think we should trust our tree warden, who is an ISA (International Society of Arborists) certified arborist, to choose the appropriate places to plant trees. The big problem with this world is that there aren't enough trees being planted to make up for those being cut down."

Planning Commission liaison Michael White also defended the plantings done by the tree warden, and he recalled the trees at the site being discussed at every meeting "for the last number of months, and we agreed the trees should be put in."

Prospective committee member Jim Rugh showed pictures of the new plantings, a coral bark Japanese maple and a snow fountain weeping cherry, both dwarf trees, at the traffic island.

Rugh included pictures of new tree plantings on private properties on the far side of Walcott Avenue. He presented computer renditions of what the trees would look like at full growth. In the rendition, the trees blocked the view of a neighboring house on the same side of Walcott Avenue. He also presented a rendition of the privately planted trees in full growth, which blocked the water view from the top of the hill.

Rugh offered the computer renderings in response to a complaint from Anthony Antine of Walcott Avenue that trees planted at the corner would block his water view.

The board received from the town a copy of a letter of application from Antine for appointment to the committee, and White read the letter aloud to the members. Antine did not attend the meeting.

Largess asked Turley if he supported Antine's application, and Turley admitted writing a letter of recommendation to the Town Council. "I don't think he's a very good prospect if he doesn't like trees," Largess said, adding, "With the threat of global warming, every tree counts. The heck with the water view."

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