2012-04-19 / News

Longtime dream of a Jamestown tree nursery comes to life

The farm, which is 7,500 square feet, is located just off of Eldred Avenue

Ramon Ibarlucea of the town’s Public Works Department installs a deer fence around the new tree farm off of Eldred Avenue. 
PHOTO BY TIM RIEL Ramon Ibarlucea of the town’s Public Works Department installs a deer fence around the new tree farm off of Eldred Avenue. PHOTO BY TIM RIEL The idea of a tree nursery for Jamestown has been contemplated for the last couple of years, and now it is about to become a reality. The town’s water and sewer commissioners approved the project in March, after a two-year period of discussion. The nursery will be located off Eldred Avenue, close to the Jamestown Community Farm, behind the reservoir.

The Jamestown Tree Preservation and Protection Committee, more familiarly know as the Tree Committee, has been in existence for about 10 years. Jim Rugh has chaired the committee for about half of that time. According to Rugh, the idea of a tree nursery for Jamestown is not a new one. It has been on the committee’s radar for several years.

A couple of years ago, committee member Tony Andine suggested that the panel needed to not only work on permits and plantings, but to make projects a reality as well.

“We were doing day-to-day work, and at Tony’s suggestion, one of the projects we defined was a tree farm,” Rugh said.

The business of the Tree Committee to this point has mostly revolved around planting around eight trees a year, in the village area for the most part. The trees are planted on the right-of-way in front of the houses of residents. People adopt the trees and promise to water them, but Jamestown’s traditionally dry summers sometimes result in a water ban, which means the town has to be responsible for the watering.

Based on that experience, Rugh said that the committee has learned that planting in the spring is not a good idea. They have learned that it’s better to plant in the fall. The problem with that is that nurseries do not usually have a good selection of starter trees for sale when the fall comes around. Those discoveries led to the idea of a tree nursery for Jamestown.

The new nursery is on a 100-x- 75-foot plot of land. Working with Town Engineer Mike Gray, the committee initially identified a site for the nursery. When it turned out that the area was too wet for tree growing, Gray came up with the present site, which is located on town-owned property.

“It’s a beautiful spot,” Rugh said. “It’s very close to where the bike path will go and it backs onto the community farm. It’s not an isolated area. There are people around. It’s a resource for the town.”

The committee then applied to the water and sewer commissioners and won approval for the project last month. “We’ve gotten very, very gratifying support from the Town Council,” Rugh said. “They’ve been very supportive.”

The nursery will consist of five root-tilled rows. Ten trees will be planted in one row each year. After five years, the trees from the first row that were planted will be removed and relocated, and the row will be replanted. Thus the nursery will become a perpetual source of trees for the town.

The committee has installed five birdhouses on the nursery grounds in an effort to control insects naturally. Birds that make the houses their dwellings will feed on the insects. No pesticides or fertilizers will be employed. Deer fencing surrounds the nursery, which will be irrigated using a solar-powered drip-irrigation system. Rugh expects the irrigation system to be installed in the next three or four weeks.

With the town growing its own trees, it will allow Jamestown to not only have a better selection of trees to plant, but a wider variety of trees as well. Eight starter trees have been purchased for planting in the nursery so far. They include two Nyssa trees, a native plant that does well in Jamestown. There will also be a couple of red oaks and willow oaks, which, while not common in New England, tend to do well in a dry situation.

“It gives us a chance to try out some trees,” Rugh said. “But if we grow a tree for five years in the nursery, and finding it does do well, it gives us a greater variety of trees to use in the town.”

The tree nursery is funded entirely by a grant. The federal grant, known as America the Beautiful, is administered by the Rhode Island Tree Council. There is no cost to the town for the project.

Mia White, a student at North Kingstown High School, is organizing volunteers for the tree nursery. “We need people who will check the drip irrigation to make sure that there is enough water,” Rugh said. “We need people to weed, and people to learn how to trim the trees. So we were just thrilled that she offered to do this.”

People interested in volunteering can find a form on the Tree Committee page of the town website.

Said Rugh, “No money from the town, saving money on future trees, a way to involve kids and senior citizens as volunteer workers up there: It’s a win-win.”

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