Has the tree warden been asleep at the switch?

By Larry Hamilton | Contributor

No one has yet telephoned me to ask, “What is all this roadside mayhem taking place?”, but I have had a few calls about tree cutting and trimming in East Charlotte by “guys with an orange truck and a big wood chipper and a lift bucket.”

I am afraid that much of the Town is in for a roadside haircut, in the interests of electric power line reliability. This year the activity over the next few months will be east of the railroad tracks plus Hills Point Rd, Orchard Rd. and Lake Rd. East. This is service area 28G2 coming from the substation off Ferry Rd. near the rail line. But fear not, Western Charlotters, your turn will come late next year. This kind of thing is planned on a five-year cycle.

Asplundh on Prindle Rd 12/23/15

Asplundh contractors clearing utility line on Prindle Road, Dec. 23. Photo: Larry Hamilton

Your Tree Warden has worked with Green Mountain Power and its various subcontractors for line clearing work since assuming duties in 1996. It was a bit of a shocker for them at that time to find out that there now was a custodian/steward for Charlotte’s roadsides. But we have developed collegial relations and compromises (such as putting a yardarm on some poles to get lines away from trees and more over the road). When we developed our Charlotte Scenic Roads Map for the current Town Plan, GMP and its contractors realized that Charlotte was a special place and that cutting and pruning needed to be done more sensitively.

I had worked with various contractors such as Davey Tree and Barrett, and most recently with Vaillancourt. As I write this, I am still drying out from a rainy day session in the field December 22 with a new contractor, Asplundh. (Thanks to Linda Radimer for her call to alert me to their activity on Prindle Road.) Asplundh is known as the originators of an portable wood chipper—orange in color, which was used to make chips from brush and saplings. When I first used one, circa 1954, they could only accommodate stems about 2 inches in diameter, but they have become much larger in the 60-plus years, now taking stems up to 6 inches. Stephen Brooks has an intermediate model, painted black, with which he offers custom chipping.

At any rate I was able to meet with the job unit boss, and the supervisor, call their attention to some minor violations of the Tree Warden law for roadside trees, and to secure compliance with our “do no unnecessary harm” policy. They now have a copy of our Scenic Roads Map, and especially the state-designated Lewis Creek Scenic Road. I have lodged a strong complaint to the Green Mountain Power for not having oriented Asplundh as a new contractor, regarding Charlotte’s policies.

The current raw and unsightly appearance along many of our Charlotte roadsides is due to brush-hogging work carried out by our hard-working road commissioner, Jr. Lewis. Using a tractor-mounted side-elevated brush hog, he has been cutting and brushing in our roadside ditches. This is more severe than usual because the Selectboard has adopted the new State revised ditch standards. These standards require that ditches be 2.5 feet deep, and yet have moderate slopes— they need to be wider, to reduce erosion. Much of this was triggered by the Vermont-wide flooding following Hurricane Irene, and the need to “get ahead of the (next) storm.” Junior normally does ditch brush hogging in late fall, for expected snow cover and time will soften the raw appearance. Junior and I have a good working relationship.

And so, friends, the Tree Warden is not asleep. But he was in fact caught by surprise by Green Mountain Power’s new contractor not being referred to the Tree Warden and told about our local policies and sensitivities before starting work. Please prepare for some temporary roadside unsightliness, which we will try to hold to a minimum.

Editor’s note: This article may seem all the sleepier by it’s unfortunate omission from last issue when it was meant to run. Apologies from the editor for, indeed, being a bit dozy at the production wheel after the holidays.