LACONIA — The pending request of Gregg Nolan of Cafua Management Company , the owner of the Dunking Donuts an developer of the commercial building on Union Avenue, to remove the oak tree shading the northeast corner of the property quickly stirred interest in preserving the tree.
Nolan has yet to explain the reason for his request. However, the proximity of the tree to the curb cut entering and exiting the commercial lot has raised questions about the adequacy of the sight line for motorists turning on to Union Avenue. At the same time, because an asphalt sidewalk has been laid over the roots of the tree, there is concern about the heath of the tree itself.
This week Arthur Costonis of the Environmental Defense Fund, who has spent half-a-century saving large venerable trees around the country and the world, read about the threat to the oak, took time to asses it and shared his findings with Planning Director Shanna Saunders.
Cotonis estimated the tree, the trunk of which measures 14 feet around, at between 45 and 60 years old. On a scale of one, dead or dying, to five, excellent, he rated its "vigor" as three, or fair. He said that the vigor of the tree can be improved by taking several steps before winter. The central leader, or extension of the trunk, and some dead branches should be pruned and other limbs thinned.
The asphalt covering the root sytem, Costonis said, must be "immediately and carefully removed" and replaced with rich loam. Porous cement pavers should be atop the soil to permit the aeration required for root growth. Finally, in October the tree should be fertilized by injecting nutrients into the soil around its roots.
"This is a wonderful old specimen that in my opinion deserves to be preserved for posterity," Costonis wrote to Saunders, adding that he offered his recommendations "as a professional courtesy and civic duty."
Meanwhile, Paul Moynihan, director of public works, accompanied by City Councilor David Bownes (Ward 2), the council's liaison to the Planning Board, toured the site yesterday. Moynihan noted that if the curb cut were moved to spare the tree and improve the site line, parking spaces would be foregone.
When the Planning Board approved the site plan for the commercial building stipulated that "the large oak tree near the northeast corner of the property is a monumental shade tree, and as such shall be protected and maintain(ed) during and after construction." Saunders said that Nolan spoke to her about removing the tree, but has yet to submit a written request to do so. She said that any request remove the tree would be be submitted to the Planning Board, which could grant or deny it.
As Moynihan and Bownes eyed the situation yesterday, several passing motorists urged them not to cut down the oak.
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