2011-07-21 / News

State representative awards tree committee with $1,000 grant

By Geoff Campbell

State Rep. Deb Ruggiero awards a $1,000 grant last week to Town Administrator Bruce Keiser, from left, Tree Warden Steve Saracino and Tree Preservation and Protection Committee Chairman Jim Rugh. Photo by Geoff Campbell State Rep. Deb Ruggiero awards a $1,000 grant last week to Town Administrator Bruce Keiser, from left, Tree Warden Steve Saracino and Tree Preservation and Protection Committee Chairman Jim Rugh. Photo by Geoff Campbell The traffic island at the corner of Eldred Avenue and East Shore Road will soon receive a landscaping makeover thanks in large part to a legislative grant sponsored by Rhode Island Rep. Deb Ruggiero.

After Ruggiero handed the check for $1,000 to town officials last week, she said, “It’s a pleasure to support the beauty and preservation of the trees here on the Island and I appreciate the work that everyone does.”

The town’s Tree Preservation and Protection Committee, chaired by Jim Rugh, will oversee the project.

Rugh expressed the committee’s appreciation of Ruggiero’s commitment to her hometown’s beautification noting, “Deb Ruggiero has always been a tremendous supporter of the tree committee.”

Part of the state-owned crossisland expressway, the island will be receive willow oaks, which are “long-lived tough trees, with long narrow leaves like a willow,” Rugh said.

The space has been designed by Tree Warden Steve Saracino, who has added raised beds to avoid lawnmower damage. Saracino, who also sits on the tree committee, echoed Rugh’s gratitude for the opportunity to complete another beautification project. “We appreciate [the grant],” he said. “It’s our second year and we really do appreciate this. [It] is going to allow us to create another landscape that’s going to work well for the town.”

Rugh explained that the committee has evolved in the way it approaches its mission, moving to an initiative and project-based approach.

Pushed by committee member Tony Antine, one such initiative is “civic beautification,” moving beyond planting and maintenance to consider how trees fit into the “overall aesthetic for the town.”

The committee first participated in the state’s Adopt-A-Spot program by adopting a stateowned traffic island near Fort Wetherill where they planted a donated dawn redwood. This was a positive first step that Rugh said has been complemented by neighbors who have planted flowers in the island as well.

Other beautification efforts have included work at the town barn on Taylor Point and at the Police Station. Saracino has training and expertise as a professional landscape architect and he routinely creates well-designed and attractive landscapes for the town.

In reflecting on the evolution of the committee, Rugh noted that tree committees began to sprout up in significant numbers about the time Jamestown added one in the late 1990s. He explained that trees are preserved and protected in larger cities by the parks department. In Newport, he said, the care of city trees is managed and funded by a private foundation.

The idea of a tree committee is to have a group of townspeople focused on the health of trees in the right of ways and on townowned land. Rugh added, “Trees on private land are private property.”

The committee or the town has no responsibility for the upkeep of trees on private land.

Rugh also explained that in almost all cases a road is sandwiched by at least a 10-foot wide town-owned right of way on either side. The trees that are located within a right of way are by definition near the road, and their maintenance, which is often completed by the Public Works Department, is required in order to manage safe sight lines and to trim branches before they fall in the roadway.

In another example of the initiatives and projects approach, recently received federal monies from the America the Beautiful Grant of $3,100 will fund the Jamestown tree farm. An idea first generated before Rugh joined the committee four years ago, the tree farm has gathered a great deal of momentum recently and is seen as an opportunity to help young trees adapt to Rhode Island’s harsh winters and dry summers.

The committee did its research, including visiting community tree farms in the area. As Rugh put it, “We saw what works and we saw what doesn’t work.”

The farm will help to keep species on hand that might not be immediately available elsewhere when they are most needed.

Rugh explained that the tree nursery, which will be located on town-owned land, will be deer fenced, small in scale, have a drip irrigation system and will host no more than 25 trees at any one time.

A review of files indicates that Jamestown regularly replaces about five trees annually and that number depends on the number of conditions and circumstances. In a year where the number of replacements is higher, outside resources will need to be used.

The black tupelo tree is an example of a tree that is hard to find in local nurseries, but it grows well in Jamestown. Rugh said that the farm will allow for low-cost experimentation, such as trying out the Chinese pistache tree, by planting a sapling for less than $20 and watching how it grows and adapts. Rugh was emphatic that the work at the tree farm is not about the people who enjoy Jamestown’s treescape today but it is about the next generation of Jamestowners having the opportunity to continue to benefit from a rich and healthy treescape.

Managing a town’s foliage, particularly one often honored as a Tree City USA community, takes money and given current economic conditions, Rugh said, “We are always looking for ways to expand the budget.” The town’s tree budget is augmented from time to time by donated trees as well as trees that are gifted as part of the Memorial Tree Program. The program is fully explained on the committee’s webpage on the town’s website.

In addition the committee, particularly with the help of Saracino, applies for an increasing variety and number of grants to fund projects and initiatives.

Saracino is a licensed arborist, a town requirement, and a licensed landscape architect. Rugh noted that Saracino’s credentials, experience and design sense make him a valuable resource because he is able to think about trees in the context of overall design. Among the other already completed initiatives and projects is a tree inventory of all town-owned trees that are both listed and located on maps.

The committee is a vibrant active group with diverse roles, each taking their collective role as guardians of the next generation of the Jamestown treescape quite seriously. The committee has openings on it and Rugh encourages any interested persons to contact the town clerk.

Said Town Administrator Bruce Keiser, “Our state representative and our tree committee do great work on behalf of Jamestown.”

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