Teamwork takes down TCCA’s tricky tree

This remarkably generous deed was performed as a contribution to the TCCA by Ellis and Steve at their own expense.

We all appreciate the benefits of trees, their beauty in the landscape, their shade on a hot day, the refuge they provide for birds. But when a landscape tree near a building dies, it turns from being an asset to being a problem.

Such was the case for a statuesque Scots pine tree between the Thetford Center Community Association (TCCA) and the Town Garage.  It had been devoid of practically all its foliage for several years, not a good sign. At least 70 ft in height, any shedding of its large limbs could have damaging consequences, striking the adjacent garage or the railings by the community center. These structures also presented impediments to the tree’s removal, as did the nearby power lines alongside Route 113.  

Trees in these situations may be removed by professional arborists working from a bucket truck to the tune of a few thousand dollars. Unluckily for the TCCA, the tree stood on their side of the property line. But the expense of an arborist was beyond the budget of this small volunteer organization.

Community connections came to the rescue. Residents of Tucker Hill Road, namely Stephen Bradley and Ellis Paige, both have connections to TCCA. Ellis Paige mows the lawn and plows snow, and his daughters ran the TCCA in recent years till they handed that responsibility over to a new board, including Nicky Corrao and Ben Bradley, brother of Steve Bradley. For the last ten years or so, Ellis and Steve have worked together, on and off, as a skilled tree-felling team.

Their approach was to dismantle the tree from the top down without the aid of a bucket truck. It involved the delicate work of climbing the tree with a chain saw to remove limbs sequentially. However there was the big question of whether the tree had started to rot. Decayed trees can break unpredictably with lethal results. Since a handful of green pine needles remained on one branch, Steve thought it was safe to climb. And after ascending and putting his weight on the major limbs, his experience told him the tree was still solid.

Left: Ellis steadies the ladder for Steve’s ascent; Right: Safety harness in place, Steve positions a rope.
Steve pulls up the chainsaw that Ellis attached to the rope.
It is important to remove as many side branches as possible
Moving to work on the leftmost major limb
With side branches removed, Steve takes down part of the large limb in sections
It’s thirsty work; Ellis sends up a bottle of water.
Moving across under Ellis’s watchful eye
Steve maintains his footing on the tree trunk with a climbing spike on the instep of each foot.
How much higher?
The lower trunk is full of nails from the fence that was once attached to the tree. Steve looks for a safe place to cut above the nails, which spell ruin for a chainsaw blade. Ellis also checked with a handheld metal detector.
A controlled fall for the main trunk. After Steve cuts it almost all the way through, it is pulled over in the desired direction with a cable attached to Ellis’s tractor.
And now, the clean-up. All the cut-up trunks and branches were loaded into Ellis’s dump truck. It took several trips. He kindly disposed of this mass of wood on his own property.
There were 104 annual growth rings visible in the cut face of the trunk
Ellis and his equipment — his tractor, excavator and dump truck — were indispensable to the safe and efficient execution of the job.

This remarkably generous deed was performed as a contribution to the TCCA by Ellis and Steve at their own expense. It exemplifies the unselfish spirit of volunteerism that has kept our town institutions going and that we hope will sustain them into the future.

Photo credit: Li Shen

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