A total of seven ‘significant’ trees will be dug up from the grounds of Charter Oak International Academy and stored at Westmoor Park until they can be replanted once the construction of the new school has been completed.
By Ronni Newton
A large tree spade was in action Tuesday afternoon on the grounds of Charter Oak International Academy in West Hartford, digging up and moving the first four of a total of seven trees that the town will attempt to preserve and replant on the grounds once the construction of the new school building is completed.
West Hartford Director of Plant and Facilities Services Bob Palmer said that the seven trees had been identified as having “significant importance to Charter Oak,” and those will moved to temporary space on the grounds of Westmoor Park until they can become part of the landscape at the new Charter Oak International Academy campus. Some of the trees were planted as memorials, and others are “just very nice species,” Palmer said.
On Tuesday afternoon, West Hartford Department of Public Works grounds specialist Brian Mitchell was supervising the work of Mountain Tree Service, the contractor hired by the town. He said that three elm trees had been removed already, and the crew was working to tie back branches of an oak tree that would then be dug up and transported to Westmoor Park.
A total of three elms, two oaks, a plum, and a magnolia tree will be moved from Charter Oak to Westmoor Park where they will be placed in the ground and maintained, probably until some time in 2016.
“The greatest concern is for the magnolia, because of the spread and structure of the branching that starts lower on the tree. It’s hard to fit into the confines of the tree spade,” said Mitchell. Mountain Tree Service’s spade is the largest in the state, he said.
Removal of the trees with the tree spade is a two-day process, said Mitchell. It takes about 25 to 30 minutes to secure and dig up each tree, but it can only be done during daylight, when the students are inside the building. “This is the best way to do it, rather than digging up the trees by hand and balling and burlapping them.”
The plum tree, which was planted as a memorial to a Charter Oak teacher, is a bit close to some underground utilities, and Mitchell said the crew would have to “air spade” some of the roots because they need to stay at least 18 inches away from utilities.
The process began with removal of a plug of ground at Westmoor Park to make way for the first tree. When the Mountain Tree truck drops off a tree at Westmoor, it brings back a plug to fill the hole at Charter Oak.
Mitchell said he expects “low mortality,” and is fairly confident that the trees will survive the experience. He said they had been given extra watering since early summer to ensure they were in as good shape as possible for the move. Employees at Westmoor Park will keep them well-watered until they are returned to Charter Oak.
In addition to the trees, Mitchell is supervising the relocation of some of Charter Oak’s playground equipment from the front to the Sterling Field side of the school. Other playground equipment has reached the end of its usuable life and will just be dismantled, said Mitchell, although parts will be salvaged to be used for repairs of other town playscapes.
A stone beneath one of the trees that is a memorial to veterans was removed two weeks ago, Mitchell said, and is being stored at the nearby home of a Charter Oak staff member.
Many of the trees on the perimeter of the Charter Oak property are large old oaks, dating back to the time when the area was home to Charter Oak Park. Palmer said that as many as possible of the historical oaks will be preserved, and that requirement was specified in the construction plan. Some of the interior oak trees on the property will need to be cut down to accommodate the new school building.
Groundbreaking for the new Charter Oak International Academy is currently planned for January 2015.
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