The Ash Tree at Stevens-Coolidge Place
North Andover, MA – March 5, 2020 – For several decades The Trustees of Reservations (The Trustees) has been monitoring the health of an iconic American White Ash Tree (Fraxinus Americana) at The Stevens-Coolidge Place, today estimated to be nearly 250 years old. The tree, which sits near the orchard, has outlived its expected life span, and entered a period of severe decline.
The tree will be removed around March 31, allowing the community time to take one last photo and bid farewell.
“This tree is a beloved and iconic part of The Stevens-Coolidge Place landscape,” says Joann Vieira, Trustees Director of Horticulture. “Our stately old friend has lived at least 100 years beyond the average lifespan of its species, and has been showing signs of decline for several years. This decision is difficult, and not one we take lightly—it is one informed by two separate assessments from leading experts who found the trunk to be hollow and noted a large vertical crack. The Ash has been showing signs of decline for several years and its removal is necessary for the safety of our visitors and guests. Sadly, it is no longer feasible to retain it in safe and practical manner.”
Above(left):The iconic ash tree at The Stevens-Coolidge Place in North Andover;(right): The area of greatest concern includes thebark union with significant decay, stress cracking,and visible movement.
A full assessment conducted by certified arborists in mid-January discovered a large vertical stress crack running the length of the mostly hollow trunk, along with audible, active cracking as the tree moved with the wind. These conditions were not present in an evaluation last year. After observing the crack, a specialized scanning tool was used to check for decay and rot. The scans revealed as little as four inches of wood in places around the base, with decay and hollow voids at the center of the trunk supporting the entire canopy. A second certified arborist confirmed the assessment later that month.
Given that the 80-foot high tree sits in a high traffic area for the public, experts have recommended its removal, citing “extreme risk” and the likelihood of failure. For the public’s safety, a construction fence has been installed around the base of the tree to keep people out of the tree’s potential fall zone.
“The large horizontal branches at the base of the tree’s crown are too heavy for the tree’s fragile trunk,” explains Katherine Macdonald, the Trustees’ Portfolio Director for The Stevens- Coolidge Place and nearby reservations. “We explored the option of removing the branches to alleviate some of that stress, but that would still leave us with a very compromised tree sitting at the heart of the event lawn. Our arborists and experts took a hard look at all the options and determined that it was not feasible to extend the lifespan of the tree through any practical intervention, including reducing its crown, performing structural pruning, or through the use of cables or rods. In the interests of safety, it unfortunately needs to be removed.”
In 1980 Trustees stewards began taking a long-range view to prepare for the eventual loss of the beloved and majestic Ash. A European Beech tree was selected to serve as a replacement, in order to diversify the collection of plants on the site while matching the scale and form of the Ash canopy to retain the overall character of the property. Today the Beech stands approximately 35-feet tall and is located near the perennial garden, behind the Ash, where it will continue to be cultivated for the enjoyment of current and future generations. With age the tree will likely double in height, making it a prominent feature in the landscape.
Recognizing the historical significance of this Ash, the last remaining specimen that gave the property its original name of “Ashdale Farm,” The Stevens-Coolidge Place staff will provide opportunities for visitors to say goodbye to the tree throughout the month of March. Once the Ash is safely removed, the tree waste will be destroyed, as a recommended best practice to help reduce the spread of destructive Emerald Ash Borer beetles, which have been found on nearby Ash Trees.
“The Stevens-Coolidge Place is a beloved cultural landscape that has been shaped by generations of the Stevens family for both utility and beauty,” adds Macdonald. “The large Ash trees were prized by the family, so much so that they designed their estate around their majestic presence. But like all living landscapes, trees are a dynamic system and constantly changing. As stewards, we strive to preserve the values and character of these landscapes while safely managing this inevitable change over time.”
Up until the scheduled removal of the tree on March 31, visitors from the community and beyond are invited to come post memories and photos on a community board, or email them to email@example.com. Additionally, a small stage will be positioned at a safe distance, for a last photo opportunity with the Ash.
“Year after year, many families have gathered at the old Ash Tree for their family portraits or holiday cards,” says Macdonald. “The Stevens-Coolidge Place wants to hear from you, as we bid goodbye to this special tree. Even if you’re not able to attend in person, please share your memories by email or on social media! Together we will commemorate what has been a special landmark for many families over the generations, and give it the special send-off it deserves.”
More about The Trustees
Founded in the City of Boston by landscape architect and open space visionary Charles Eliot in 1891, The Trustees is the nation’s first and the Massachusetts’ largest preservation and conservation nonprofit with a mission to preserve and share places of natural and historic significance and beauty with everyone, forever. With 119 natural and historic sites located from the Berkshires to the Cape and the Islands, Trustees sites range from barrier beaches and coastal landscapes to working farms, designed landscapes and gardens, historic homesteads, and urban and community parks. Supported by generous members, donors, volunteers and supporters, The Trustees welcomes millions of residents and visitors to its properties annually and offers thousands of engaging experiences and programs designed to inspire a deeper connection to nature and the outdoors, conservation, community, and culture.