2007-04-26 / News

Tree committee looks at grant for 'structural soils'

By Robert Morton-Ranney

The Jamestown Tree Preservation and Protection Committee welcomed a guest at their April 17 meeting.

State Rep. Bruce Long (RJamestown, Middletown) said he was very impressed with the town's previous application for a $500 grant under Rhode Island's Community Legislative Grants program, and suggested that an application for a new grant be written in the same fashion.

Outgoing Tree Warden David Nickerson explained his interest in obtaining "structural soil" to be placed beneath existing sidewalks in Jamestown. An "air spade" is used to remove the old material, which has the advantage of avoiding damage to existing roots. Structural soil is strong enough to support the weight of the sidewalk and its traffic while allowing the natural growth of tree roots. This prevents tree roots from lifting the sidewalk. Most tree roots grow horizontally only when they are prevented from growing downward, Nickerson explained. Nickerson will demonstrate the use of an air spade on Saturday, April 28. He said the public is invited, and the initial meeting point is the Melrose Avenue School at 9 a.m.

Long said this is a good use for the money the grant program provides, and he hopes more communities will investigate this way of saving both trees and sidewalks.

Nickerson noted that the cost of structural soil is more than other materials. In a recent project in Wickford, for instance, the structural soil was $75 per yard, versus $25 a yard for crushed stone. He added that the species of trees to be planted near sidewalks must be carefully selected to ensure their roots don't naturally grow horizontally.

Jim Rugh, Committee Vice- Chairman, ran the meeting in the absence of Chairwoman Edwina Cloherty. He asked Long about the outlook for future funding of the Community Legislative Grants program. Long said that it's "hard to say," but it "will probably be less." He said that money from the state budget is set aside for community grants, and each member of the legislature meets with the Speaker individually to request funds. Long noted that he would like to see a more open process in place.

Nickerson indicated in his Tree Warden report that Jamestown has been awarded an America the Beautiful grant, but it has not yet been officially announced. Regarding construction of the new Town Hall, Nickerson said that while landscaping had been eliminated from the budget, the original landscape design did have four trees on it.

Rugh, who is a also member of the committee planning Jamestown's 350th Anniversary celebrations in August, mentioned that the anniversary committee liked the idea of planting a commemorative tree in one of those spots, and the hope is that Governor Carcieri will be on hand to turn the first shovelful of earth.

In other business, Rugh reported that Anthony Antine was unable to accept his nomination as committee secretary, and this position remains open. Walter Boll will become a non-voting member of the committee and the Town Council will appoint another voting member. For the fifth year, Jamestown has been named a Tree City, USA.

A tree has been donated for the triangular traffic island at the intersection of Walcott Avenue, Blueberry Lane, Highland Drive, and Fort Wetherill Road, and it will be planted just behind the Fort Wetherill sign. The Tree Committee will take on responsibility for the care of this area under the state's "Adopt-A-Spot" program. Rugh mentioned that Town Administrator Bruce Keiser was very helpful in coordinating the approval process with the state. A planting ceremony is tentatively scheduled for today, April 26.

With respect to the town website, Rugh reported that a good relationship has been developed with the webmaster and plans are in place to post future meeting agendas, pictures and other information. Nickerson suggested that pertinent Rhode Island laws also be posted.

A permit application has been received and approved by the town for the trimming of trees on a public right-of-way on Racquet Road. The committee noted that the application process is somewhat cumbersome, and Nickerson suggested an online application.

Regarding the possibility of a tree inventory, Rugh said he and Cloherty had discussed it and were concerned that a volunteer effort might take too long and be inconsistent. They would like to consider hiring a firm to do it in a single year, or as a two-year project. The committee liked this idea and Nickerson was asked to get cost estimates.

Rugh explained that the inventory would involve documenting every tree on a town right-of-way. Data provided would aid in at least three ways; in applying for federal disaster relief after any future hurricane, in island planning, and in evaluating the long-term health of the town's forestation.

Rugh also suggested that Jamestown's tree master plan be given a fresh look. Plans from other towns could be used to formulate a template. In addition, Jamestown could be divided into zones for purposes of tree assessment. A motion to formulate and propose a new tree master plan was made and adopted. Rugh is attending a tree academy, for tree committee personnel, on May 17.

Boll will coordinate the mulching and watering of designated trees with the Boy Scouts.

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