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Historic trees focus of concern in Hamilton construction project

By Kevin Maki, KECI Reporter, kmaki@keci.com
Published On: Aug 06 2014 08:40:35 AM MDT
Updated On: Jul 15 2014 11:26:55 PM MDT
HAMILTON, Mont. -

The city of Hamilton is upgrading its water lines for better flow and fire safety.

Hamilton has 21 miles of line. There's been some upgrading through the years, but many of the lines are antiquated. So Hamilton can expect sections of street, somewhere in town, to be under reconstruction for years to come.

Right now, there's a $300,000 project on three blocks getting a new main, plus curbs and sidewalks. But what's getting most attention there are the neighborhood's signature shade trees. They're an old story.

A magnificent Ponderosa Pine tree stands in front of Bill Hadlow's house. The tree is 111 feet tall.

The retired Rocky Mountain Labs veterinary pathologist tells his own tall tale about Lewis and Clark's visit in 1805.

"Clark says to Lewis," chuckles Hadlow, "'Look at that big Ponderosa Pine, it must be 100 years old.'"

It is old.

"Four feet in diameter," said Hadlow, "chest high, it's probably 300 years old."

When Hadlow heard about city plans to install a curb and sidewalk near his tree, and a younger, but still massive Ponderosa next to it, he got worried.

"The way they put in sidewalks," he said, "they cut a lot of roots of trees, and I was concerned about that."

Stately trees adorn the entire street. NBC Montana talked to three or four neighbors who said they're concerned that construction could damage them.

The city said crews have brushed some roots.

But city foreman Ed Barrett said workers are taking steps to try to prevent as much stress on the trees as possible.

"We hired a contractor to come down and trim trees all the way down," said Barrett, "so they don't get hit, and we're trying to keep the sidewalks up over the roots as much as we can."

They curved the sidewalk to go around the trees.

Hamilton is known for its lush, diverse trees. Roy Grant loves them, and was concerned about their health in view of being disturbed by heavy equipment.

"I think the city now is trying to do the best they can to protect all the trees," he said.

Hadlow says he thinks the situation has been "pretty well resolved," although he laughed and said the city didn't take him up on his proposal to build a bridge over his beloved grand daddy Ponderosas.

For the past three years, Hadlow has been putting pheromone patches on his trees to protect them against pine beetle infestation, a phenomenon that is devastating millions of Ponderosa Pines.