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Brunswick battles climate change one tree at a time

Climate change requires a more diverse assortment of tree species to be planted to replace the ones that break, get diseased, or become too old.

BRUNSWICK, Maine — The old saying is, “Great oaks from little acorns grow."

Brunswick's tree nursery is small right now, just two raised beds, but town arborist Dennis Wilson expects it to grow much larger as Brunswick looks to grow an inventory of replacements. 

“Because of climate change, things are warming up. Storms [are] getting more severe, winds getting more [severe]. Some of these trees aren’t adapted to it,” Wilson said.

Climate change, the arborist said, requires a more diverse assortment of tree species to be planted to replace the ones that break, get diseased, or become too old. 

The town's tree committee saw that need as they developed a plan to ensure Brunswick remains a town full of trees.

“There are a number of trees in town already in rough shape and need to be replaced,” Jesse Bishop, a University of Maine forestry graduate who is chair of the tree committee, said. “So we will use some of the stock from the nursery for those pretty soon.”

The nursery is about half planted now, and Wilson said it should be filled in the next few weeks, half evergreen trees and half deciduous trees. 

That diversity is already evident, he said, with more to come. There are small white pine trees planted, but he said they would also be planting red pine because they are more resistant to heat and windstorms. There is an elm seedling and a hop hornbeam, among other species, and he plans to plant as many as 10 chestnut seedlings. Chestnuts vanished from Maine many years ago, but tree lovers and arborists hope they will make a comeback.

The idea of growing the town's new trees has also caught the imagination of many people, Wilson said, including school children. Youngsters from the Family Focus program painted bright and colorful murals that stand on three sides of the nursery.

“They loved it; they soaked it all in,” Tree Lisa Harmon-Hester, an artist who guided the kids through the project, said.

 “We read stories together. We did all kinds of art projects," she added. "They couldn’t wait to get going.”

Brunswick got help creating the nursery and the art. The state provided a grant through its Project Canopy program, and Brunswick Public Art used funding from Walmart to pay the costs of the murals, Wilson said.

All of it, he said, is about planning for long into the future by looking ahead to a changing climate and changing tree needs while ensuring Brunswick’s beauty as a tree-filled town does not change.

The arborist said trees require that kind of thought.

 “Fifty years to 100 years, always planning ahead.”

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