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Trees a hot topic at Paonia meeting

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A tree planted at Poulos Park and an Arbor Day tree planting both provided valuable lessons and examples of community support at the March 14 Paonia town board meeting.

Discussion at the newly re-established Paonia Tree Board's most recent meeting focused on requirements of receiving "Tree City USA" designation by the national Arbor Day Foundation. The last year the town received the designation was in 2009.

One of the four requirements, explained tree board chair Samira Hart, is to hold an annual Arbor Day celebration. Arbor Day falls this year on April 27, and the board is planning to plant a tree to celebrate the occasion.

In the past, explained Hart, Arbor Day trees were often planted in memory of or dedication to a local citizen. It was suggested to the board that this Arbor Day, a tree be planted in memory of Hart's late husband, Paonia police officer, veteran and volunteer firefighter, Clarence "Bill" Hart, who lost his battle with cancer in 2017. While they are in the early stages of planning, the tree board is considering planting the tree, perhaps an autumn blaze maple or a red/silver maple cross, at Apple Valley Park. Cost of the planting and tree are estimated at $200.

Hart asked trustees if they would be willing to purchase or fund in part a tree for the occasion. "And hopefully we can pull together something really awesome for our first Arbor Day celebration in many, many years."

Trustees voted unanimously to fund the purchase of the tree. In discussing where funding would come from, citizen and frequent meeting attendee Jakki Taylor spoke up: "I would be happy to donate $200 in memory of Officer Hart, so you don't have to worry about the budget." Taylor, who received a big round of applause, explained that her late husband was also a retired police officer. "He wouldn't have it any other way," she said.

The Public Works Department will assist in planting the tree, and trustees approved $200 for the celebration at the suggestion of town finance officer Cindy Jones. Hart said the celebration "will be a nice way to bring back the tree board."

Trustees also discussed the possible removal of a problematic honey locust tree planted many years ago at Poulos Park. The tree grew to be bigger than expected. Its branches are damaging the bricks of the historic Masonic Lodge building, and the flags flying in the park are constantly catching on its branches. It's also been pruned numerous times, and the most recent pruning was not done correctly.

In discussing their options, said Hart, tree board members saw an opportunity to learn, and to educate the public on how to choose an appropriate tree for a particular location.

For now, the tree will stay and the town will consult with an arborist on what options exist for the honey locust. If it's removed, said trustee Barry Pennell, "There will probably be a backlash."

A case in point, said mayor pro tem David Bradford, who represents the board of trustees on the tree board, is a private property owner in town who recently made the decision to remove some spruce trees on his property that still have a lot of growing to do before they become a serious problem.

"I'm concurring with trustee Pennell," said Bradford. "Because it's not a good thing for the tree board to start off their first year by cutting trees down... It stirs up a lot of emotions."

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