The Borough’s Christmas tree, which held court over the merchants’ annual Christmas Stroll each year and in the off season served as a great hiding place for small children in Wadawanuck Square, suffered a mortal injury in the early February blizzard.
The top half of the white spruce was snapped off by the wind in the overnight of Feb. 8-9, at the height of the storm. But Howard Park, the Burgess of Parks, Trees and Rights of Way for the village, believes the real damage had been done in October, during Hurricane Sandy.
“I believe that the hurricane had already compromised that tree,” Park said Wednesday. The other conifer next to it had been destroyed (by Sandy) and after the storm, I saw that it was leaning precariously to the southwest. I was worried at the time, and thought maybe we ought to take it down.”
But with Christmas coming and the Stonington Borough Merchants Association and Stonington Village Improvement Association having already scheduled the annual Tree Lighting Stroll, it was decided to leave the tree standing. The Stroll took place, with the lighting and the caroling.
Then the high wind gusts of the blizzard earlier this month finished the job.
The last remnants of the tree were being cleared from the square on Wednesday this week. Plans for a new Borough Christmas tree are already well underway.
Park said he was out during the night of the blizzard checking on trees, and so he knew approximately when the pine snapped.
“It had taken a terrible beating (during Hurricane Sandy),” he said. “We could see that it had really been split all the way down through.”
On Tuesday, Park met at the tree’s location with landscape architect Brad Painter and SVIA representative Jack Fix to talk about the future. There were two basic options, plant a new tree or plan to buy a Christmas tree every season and install it.
Park said he was personally not in favor of planting a new tree “because I like to see Wadawanuck Square as a park and not a forest. Brad was against (planting) because it would be one conifer amidst all the deciduous trees.”
But the SVIA was strongly in favor of planting a new tree, and so the decision was made to buy and plant a 14-20-foot Fraser fir. The plan still needs approval from the full Board of Warden and Burgesses.
Park said the annual purchase option was not a good choice, as it can get expensive doing it every year.
The location of the tree will move slightly, about 30 yards to the north and east of where the original stood (that’s more toward the Post Office and the library, away from the corner of Water and High streets).
Park said the reason they decided on a Fraser fir as a replacement is because the species lends itself to being groomed and maintained so that it does not get too tall or overwhelming to that side of the square. He noted that if the old tree had fallen from its base, rather than halfway down, it would have taken out all the wires on the street.
Park invited anyone with an opinion about the tree replacement to attend the Warden and Burgesses next meeting, 7:30 p.m., March 18 at the Borough Hall.