DPW to Give Away Tree Seedlings for Arbor Day Tree Planting Demonstration to be Held on April 29
Blair Crane is Norfolk’s director of public works and the town’s tree warden.
By Grace Allen
Norfolk’s DPW will be offering free tree seedlings later this month, in celebration of Arbor Day.
One hundred eastern redbud seedlings will be available on a first come, first served basis, starting on Friday, April 28 from noon to 3 p.m. at the Department of Public Works facility on Medway Branch, and then on Saturday, April 29 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Transfer Station across the street from the DPW.
On Saturday, April 29 at 11:30 a.m., Blair Crane, Norfolk’s director of public works and the town’s tree warden, will hold a tree planting demonstration at the Norfolk Cemetery. Any remaining tree seedlings will also be available there as well. The event will go on rain or shine.
This is the second year Crane has held a seedling giveaway and planting demonstration. Last year, 100 white oaks were offered to residents, and they went quickly.
Both last year and this year, the DPW ran a poll on its Facebook page with a list of tree types to vote on for the giveaway. Crane picked the poll candidates after consulting with the state’s other 350 tree wardens. The DPW head is on the executive board of the Massachusetts Tree Wardens and Foresters Association.
One hundred eastern redbud seedlings will be given away in celebration of Arbor Day.
Crane says the Arbor Day giveaway stems from the fact that the town and various utility companies have had to cut down a lot of trees in the last few years due to issues like disease and overgrowth. Dutch elm disease, for example, has devasted tree populations across North America.
“I thought it would be a great way to not only restore some of those trees, but to get the public involved as well,” explained Crane.
According to Crane, last year’s poll winner, the white oak, was a good choice because of its hardiness and lifespan. Although white oaks grow slowly, they can live 500 to 600 years. The trees are widespread across eastern North America.
“This year I wanted to offer something a little different, a tree that would be hardy enough to survive in Norfolk but at the same time bring a little color to town as well,” explained Crane. “We have a lot of great residents here in town, really active arborist types, that have an interest in trees and offered their opinions on the poll choices, too. I think this year’s seedlings will also go quickly.”
The eastern redbud tree, known as “the harbinger of spring,” is native to North America and Canada. It grows to a height of 20 to 30 feet, with a spread of 25 to 35 feet at maturity.
The seedlings to be offered at the giveaway are about two years old, and between 18 and 24 inches tall. They will come prepackaged in bags with some topsoil to start them off. A page of instructions will also be included. The seedlings are grown in nurseries across the country.
Crane has worked for the town for about four years now. Active on Facebook, he is diligent about posting storm updates or road closures for maintenance and repairs, among other notifications for residents. He believes that three of the town departments—police, fire, and public works—touch everybody in town, one way or the other.
“Public works is kind of the Secret Service of those three branches, because it’s in the background,” says the personable Crane. “My responsibility is not the just the roads, but water, parks, sanitation, and trees. We cover everybody in town on a daily basis.”
In his role as tree warden, Crane is tasked with protecting every tree larger than 1 inch in diameter on public property as well as alongside the roads in town. He’s also responsible for protecting the public from those trees, if a tree poses an immediate risk to life and property.
However, Massachusetts has many laws that govern and protect public roadside trees, noted Crane.
“It’s a big, lengthy process to take down a tree in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts,” he said.
In 1899, Massachusetts became the first state to enact legislation requiring that every municipality have a tree warden. According to the state’s Department of Conservation and Recreation, the term “warden” was a common title for natural resource officials in the 1800s, who were responsible for guarding public resources against destructive forces like insects, diseases, and people. Today, tree wardens have many responsibilities and also must be trained in arboriculture, the science of tree care.
Follow the Norfolk DPW on Facebook to stay informed about its services, and to participate in next year’s poll for seedling giveaways.