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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Six tons of dying maple tree doesn’t get cut down easily

NASHUA – Sandy Martinage sat on a wall along Lemon Street in Nashua watching the remains of a big, old friend – more than 6 tons and 150 years old – get strapped tightly to the bed of a truck.

“I should get back to work, but this is kind of like leaving in the middle of a funeral, so I will just wait until she drives off,” she said. ...

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NASHUA – Sandy Martinage sat on a wall along Lemon Street in Nashua watching the remains of a big, old friend – more than 6 tons and 150 years old – get strapped tightly to the bed of a truck.

“I should get back to work, but this is kind of like leaving in the middle of a funeral, so I will just wait until she drives off,” she said.

Martinage, the sexton at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Nashua, was looking on as the massive sections of an old sugar maple was bound up before heading to a processor in Milford.

Gate City Tree Service was contracted to bring down the tree as part of maintenance on the church grounds.

A four-man crew began work early Monday, setting up a crane and 250-horsepower chipper. Ken Phillips worked from a bucket truck from the top down, taking out branches and getting access for straps. The straps, rated to lift 22,000 pounds, were then slung twice around the trunk as the massive remnants of the approximately 150-year-old tree was taken away in two final steps.

Phillips said the difficulty of removing this particular tree was “about eight out of 10” due to the proximity to the church building, its cemetery, nearby wires and traffic moving along Lowell Street.

Martinage watched from an upper window at the church as Phillips wielded a chainsaw with a 4-foot-long bar to make the final cut. Crane operator Kenneth Stewart had taken up the slack to control the massive trunk.

Once free from the ground, it swung slowly but deliberately toward the church and back over nearby headstones at the adjacent cemetery.

“Oh my goodness, oh shoot!” said Martinage, watching Stewart and the crane do their work. “Imagine the weight,” she added. The large Wallace family stone took a hit but righted itself as the trunk was lifted to a nearby parking lot. Eventually it was strapped, with other sections, onto a waiting truck for removal.

That weight, according to the crew, totaled more than 12,000 pounds for both sections of the remaining trunk.

“I’m sad,” said Martinage, who had watched the tree over the eight years she has worked at the church.

“It’s just a big part of history here. It’s just a majestic tree, but it’s served its life here, and this is an end.”

Don Himsel can be reached at 594-6590 or dhimsel@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Himsel on Twitter (@Telegraph_DonH).