A long-standing elm tree in front of Warrenton’s iconic courthouse on Main Street will have to be removed in the coming weeks. Peter Deahl, ISA Certified Arborist, Fine Pruning, LLC, has determined that the tree is decayed and should come down before it falls on its own.
Brandie Schaeffer, interim town manager, said that the town is working on a timeline for the tree’s removal. “We will need to secure a contractor and get it scheduled. I would think it would be at least a month away, as we want to meet and discuss our desires for removal and coordinate traffic controls.”
Schaeffer said she estimates that the tree is less than 90 years old. Since it has occupied such an important spot in the town, Schaeffer said that the town would like to have the tree removed in the largest pieces possible, so that the wood may be reused in some way. “We won’t really know what might be possible until we have it down.” She added, “We polled the public for ideas and some that came across included the use of the wood for ornaments, bowls and benches.”
In his report on the health of the tree, Deahl wrote, “There is no leaf density in the elm’s crown. Trees need leaves to create that energy to exist… There are numerous woody parts that are decayed or possess cavities. This affects the tree’s integrity, which in turn can cause the tree to fail, either by losing tree parts or by the entire tree falling.”
Schaeffer pointed out that the elm, particularly because of its location on Main Street, presents a safety issue. She added that in addition to being structurally unsound, the tree has also been hit by cars several times.
Deahl reported, “This elm has spent its entire existence growing within an impervious environment of asphalt and concrete infrastructure. It has little root system from which to gather the water and nutrients it requires. From a personal standpoint, I find it heroic that this tree has remained vertical and alive as long as it has…. The town has invested a great deal of time and money on this elm, and the elm in turn has given back the best it could. I recommend the tree be removed before it can no longer stand on its own.”
He added, “If this tree is removed, replacing it will be impossible in the same location due to the existing infrastructure. However, directly across the street, adjacent to the Fauquier Bank property is a large willow oak in a grassy area just off the bank’s patio. Beneath the willow oak’s canopy there is ample room for an ornamental tree such as a Virginia fringe tree as a replacement. Fringe trees grow well in sun or shade, which makes this a good location for replanting.”
Warrenton Mayor Carter Nevill said that perhaps the town could follow the adage, “take a tree, but plant two,” in this case.