Walking on the Post Road and Measuring Trees

"Who are those people walking on the Post Road with measuring sticks?" a resident asked The Source recently. The questioner was leading us on. He or she already knew the answer.

The walkers were Town Tree Warden Bob Kuchta; Lauren Brown, a botanist consultant for the town; volunteer Barbara Yaeger, a landscape architect and chair of the Inland Wetlands Commission; and volunteer Dick Gedney, a member of the Conservation Commission. Here's the story.

The town received a grant from the America the Beautiful Foundation through the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) to identify, count, and measure trees along the Boston Post Road from the Guilford town line east to the Clinton town line. Kuchta and company spent just more than a year carrying out the task, working one or sometimes two days a week.

They measured each significant tree along the approximate six-mile route-each significant tree along the edge of the road and within 50 feet of the pavement on either side. That was about 150 hours spent collecting measurements, Kuchta estimated, and about 585 trees measured.

"We listed their scientific and common names; measured the diameter, spread, and height; and noted the locations and whether they were a single tree or in a grove," Kuchta explained.

Small saplings were not considered. To be measured, a tree's trunk had to be six inches or greater in diameter when measured at four feet off the ground. How did they measure the height of some of these larger trees?

"That's a matter of geometry. We used a calibrated height measuring stick to mark the tree and then we used a measuring wheel to walk back 66 feet, which creates a triangle and we were looking for the hypotenuse. This is the more challenging piece of the survey," Kuchta admitted. "Measuring the spread is easier. A person stands at either end and we measure off the distance between."

Were there any surprises? There are examples of "sort of a weed tree from China" called the tree of heaven at Cherry Lane and near the Clinton town line. Perhaps the most common trees found were Norway maple, sugar maple, and red maple. Norway maple is on the state's list of invasive species.

It is not surprising, Kuchta said, that there are a lot of ornamental trees on that section of the Post Road between West Wharf and East Wharf roads, where homeowners have done plantings, and not surprising that other, less developed sections, such as those near Hammonasset State Park, are more forested with native species.

The information, once layered into the town's GIS mapping systems, will help citizens and land use boards and planners to identify what trees are on a specific piece of property and where.

"It will also provide a snapshot in time, a historical record," Kuchta said.

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