Watertown Celebrated Arbor Day with Special Activities & Tree Care at Arsenal Park

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A member of a tree crew trims dead and damaged limbs from trees at Arsenal Park as part of the Town’s Arbor Day Celebration.

Trees around Arsenal Park got a trimming, and visitors learned about trees, storm water and the environment on Thursday at Watertown’s celebration of Arbor Day.

Watertown Tree Warden Chris Hayward organized the celebration with the help of the Massachusetts Arborists Association and some local organizations.

Crews from the Department of Public Works, Mount Auburn Cemetery, Joe Butler & Sons, and Tree Tech (on behalf of Eversource) removed dead or damaged limbs from the trees around the parking area at Arsenal Park.

“This is a week’s worth of work taking place in one day,” Hayward said. “That would cost $7,500 to $10,000.”

Leo Martin, chair of the Watertown Conservation Commission (which oversees Arsenal Park) said the park was in need of some care.

“The guys donated their time,” Martin said. “The trees haven’t been pruned in some time.”

Tree crews from local companies donated their time to the Town as part of the Arbor Day of Service organized by the Watertown Tree Warden.

Removing the branches make them safer, and make the tree healthier, said Hayward who returned recently for his second stint working for the town after leaving for a couple years. He recalls holding a similar event in his first time working in Watertown.

“I don’t know when they were last trimmed. We had an Arbor Day of Service when I was in my third year here, which was 2008,” Hayward said. “Removing the dead branches makes them safer. We worry about them falling on people.”

While the tree work was being done, several groups set up tables on the other end of Arsenal Park, near the gazebo and tot lot.

The Watertown Conservation Commission, which oversees the park, had several activities, including a collage of animals found along the Charles River taken be local photographer Carole Smith Berney. Conservation Commissioner Patrick Fairbairn also had examples of bark rubbings.

“You need a piece of paper and a black crayon,” Fairbairn said. “Kids can get up close and personal with tree. (The rubbings) are both a portrait and abstract.”

The winners of the Watertown Conservation Commission’s bird identification contest, Chris Hayward (left) and David Stokes (center) pose with Commissioner Patrick Fairbairn.

The Con Com also ran a bird identification contest, and the two people to match all the birds to their names correctly were Hayward and Watertown Stormwater Advisory Committee member David Stokes. Each received the following books as winners:National Audubon Society Field Guide to New England and Northeast Birds, Backyard Guide.

Another group at the event was the Armenia Tree Project, which plants trees in Armenia and runs environmental education events in Armenia and locally, said Rachel Boloyan. The group is celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2019.

The types of trees they plant in Armenia depends on the location.

“In communities we do fruit and nut trees to provide food for villages,” Boloyan said. “We do a lot around schools, hospitals and other public places. There we do decorative shrubs.”

Watertown Savings Bank handed out persimmon tree seedlings, and had activities for kids.

Stokes manned a table where he talked to people about the role trees can play in controlling rain runoff and keeping the Charles River clean.

“Trees are like giant sponges,” Stokes said. “They are great at soaking up rain water.”

Another way to remove runoff from the stormwater drains is by having a rain barrel. A 60-gallon barrels normally cost $119, but the Department of Public works offers them for $65.

The less runoff going into the storm drains, the better, Stokes said. The Town has to meet certain standards under new federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules, Stokes said, which requires the town (both the municipal side and residents) to cut the amount of phosphorus going into the river in half over the next several years.

The Watertown Department of Public Works Forestry Division participated in the Arbor Day tree trimming on Thursday.

“Soil is the best cleaner of stormwater,” Stokes said. “If it goes down your driveway and onto the street it picks up things a long the way: dirt, oil, pesticides, fertilizer, and other pollutants.”

Once in the river it can create algae blooms or kill fish and wildlife.

Hayward said he hopes to make the Arbor Day Celebration bigger and better in the future.

“Next year we are going to bring it to a different level,” Hayward said, saying he envisions a food truck and maybe live music. “It is nice to have people come out and talk about bettering our environment.”

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