Century-old silver maples lining Sykesville park entrance fall

Rotten branches, trunks posed hazard, officials say

April 02, 1999|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

The towering silver maples that lined Cooper Drive in Sykesville for nearly 100 years have fallen to chain saws.

After several inspections, all the trees on the outskirts of Cooper Park on Route 32 were deemed hazardous. They "posed an unreasonable risk" and could have toppled on their own at any time, said Stephen Johnston, area manager for Bartlett Tree Experts, the company that examined the trees earlier this year.

"They posed a serious threat to pedestrians and buildings," Johnston said. "Most were severely decayed in the trunk and the upper canopy. They had outlived their useful life."

The Town Council awarded a tree-removal contract to Oak Hill Wood Services of Woodbine. Felling the 27 trees cost $11,000 and took about a week last month.

"So many people use the park that we had to take down the trees," said Matthew H. Candland, town manager. "No one was happy, but it was the wisest decision."

Several residents complained the town destroyed history when it felled the maples.

"When we tell people a tree has to come down, they always say, `But it's been there forever,' " said Johnston. "Nothing lives forever. Suburban trees have a life span of about 30 years. The town definitely got its money's worth out of these trees."

Silver maples are inexpensive and grow quickly, but are not strong trees, Johnston said. Years ago, bad pruning also took a toll on the branches, and road construction probably undermined root systems, he said.

The trees may have looked majestic, but they were rotten to the core, said Councilwoman Jeannie Nichols.

When they were toppled, "you could scoop pulp out of them," she said. "There really was nothing in the middle."

Nichols said she envisions creating a grove where residents can dedicate trees to loved ones. She hopes to preserve a slice of one felled tree and place it in the grove as a sign of continuity.

The town will plant about 40 replacement trees in the fall, probably at a cost of less than $10,000. The selection will not include silver maples, Candland said.

"Silver maples have incredibly intrusive root systems," he said. "The wood rots, the branches fall, and they don't even have brilliant fall foliage."

The species of tree does not matter so much as where and how they are planted, said Johnston. He said he would recommend Chinese elm, sugar and red maples and sterile sweet gums.

Although Cooper Drive looks bare, the park itself is still full of trees. Many of those need replacing, Candland said.

"We would like to start taking down the old trees and planting new ones every year in the park," he said.

Pub Date: 4/02/99

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