Town Manager Will Decide On Fate Of Merry Maple

Amherst's Merry Maple. Photo: amherstma.gov

Over a dozen people joined the members of the Public Shade Tree committee and Tree Warden Alan Snow on the Town Common on Tuesday, August 2 to discuss removal of three Norway maple trees from the North Common in preparation for the North Common revitalization project. Snow said he was asked to evaluate the health of the trees on the common. He found that all three Norway maples were showing signs of decline, including the large tree affectionately known as the Merry Maple, the site of the annual holiday tree lighting every December, although Snow said a smaller maple tree had been used for the ceremony until several years ago.

Town Tree Warden Alan Snow explains the need to remove three Norway Maple trees from the North Common at a site visit on August 2, 2022. Photo: Maura Keene

Snow said the 50-inch diameter tree has lost about 40% of its crown and is showing rot in the main trunk and two of the large branches which have been cabled to the central trunk. Although he does not feel the tree presents an immediate danger to the public, that situation could change in a few years. He said that one large branch did fall in a storm about five years ago. Snow added that Norway maples are not long-lived trees, and that the Merry Maple is the largest example of the type he has seen. He estimates that it is about 80 years old, as compared to a usual lifespan of about 30 years for the species. The other two Norway maples slated for removal are smaller specimens also showing decay. One is near North Pleasant Street, and the other is adjacent to the Spring Street parking lot.

Norway maples are considered invasive species and can no longer be planted in Massachusetts. Plans for the North Common improvement include replacing the Main Street parking lot with green space, improving accessibility and drainage of the area, and planting 13 new trees. Snow noted that having trees of different ages is advisable to provide continued shade into the future.

A cluster of Norway Maples designated for removal from the North Common. Yellow tape indicates trees to be removed. Photo: Maura Keene

Several members of the public expressed dismay at losing the Merry Maple, hoping that it could be kept until it was no longer viable. Craig Awmiller likened its removal to euthanasia. Like Snow, Councilor Dorothy Pam (District 3) worried about the safety of the ailing tree. Ann Skillings said she recognized the limited remaining lifespan of the tree, but hoped that the town could commemorate its significance to the town with an appropriate ceremony. Several in attendance mentioned allowing members of the public to use the wood from the tree for artwork or furniture, although Snow said wood from Norway maples is not the best for furniture. Clare Bertrand said that she hoped the Merry Maple would not be removed until the remodeling of the common is ready to proceed.

All three trees slated for removal are marked with yellow notices announcing the public hearing set for August 9. That meeting will be held over Zoom at 5 p.m. (Zoom link here). After that meeting, the Shade Tree committee will give its recommendation regarding the three trees to the Town Manager who will make the ultimate decision on their fate. Members of the public are welcome to express their views at the meeting or submit them to Snow via email at treewarden@amherstma.gov .

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1 thought on “Town Manager Will Decide On Fate Of Merry Maple

  1. It’s beyond me why there is zero discussion of the value of older trees in natural carbon capture in the midst of the Climate Crisis. Trees, especially older trees, capture CO2 emissions (among other things) for free 24/7/365 while offering much needed heat reduction during hellish summers like the present one. Taking out trees that should have been better maintained over the years and “replacing” them with saplings that won’t offer the same climate advantages for countless decades into the future, is poor planning and a disservice to our children, grandchildren and future generations. Climate chaos demands that we upgrade our thinking about how we interact with Nature.

    On The Enviro Show we have a long running segment called “It’s the Climate Crisis, Stupid!”. It’s mostly directed toward climate denying politicians standing in the way of solutions to the greatest challenge of our time, politicians who are also in denial about a livable planet and what needs to be done to address the Crisis. Surely highly educated residents and politicians in the Five College Area are aware of this, yes?

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