By MARTHA SMITH
Special to the Standard
NORTH KINGSTOWN â€“ If all goes according to plan, the massive pine in Updike Park that has served as the town Christmas tree for many years will make its final appearance in the spotlight this holiday season.
And, in the evergreen equivalent of â€śAll About Eveâ€ť, a gorgeous ingĂ©nue is waiting in the wings.
â€śWe have been talking about trying to put a better tree in Updike Park,â€ť says public works director Phil Bergeron. The old tree has become â€śvery tall, thinned outâ€ť to the point that the entire thing â€ścanâ€™t be lit.â€ť
Enter the ingĂ©nue â€“ a gorgeously-proportioned, 20-foot blue spruce that sits on the north end of the lawn abutting the town beach.
Relocating that specimen to accommodate the extensive â€śNorth Kingstown Town Beach Action Planâ€ť prepared by the landscape architectural firm of GLA/BETA solves two problems, Bergeron notes. The old tree can be cut down and the new tree installed.
â€śWe felt there was an opportunity to exchange [the old tree] for the blue spruce once Beechwood House got moved.â€ť
As it happens, the window of opportunity to make the move this year was slammed shut when tree warden Dave Nickerson failed to examine both evergreens. â€śWe had hoped to get this done last spring, but he didnâ€™t get to it,â€ť says Bergeron. â€śWe made the decision not to relocate [the blue spruce] this fall. The time line was upon us.â€ť
At Monday nightâ€™s council meeting, landscape architect Don Leighton, representing GLA/BETA, offered a detailed presentation including site maps and overlays of the beach development plan. It will require two to three years to implement changes as small as relocating a flagpole and as extensive as improving drainage.
After Leighton was done, Bergeron says he went into the hallway, accompanied by several audience members who were â€śall very pleasedâ€ť with the plan. While he was absent, spokesmen for the Wickford Merchants Association requested $12,000 from the councilâ€™s contingency fund for the Festival of Lights.
According to Town Councilman Chuck Brennan, although the council was â€śuncomfortable giving money during a tough economic yearâ€ť especially since it doesnâ€™t fund other groups, â€śwe gave them $7,000.â€ť They had asked for $12,000 and said it costs $20,000 to stage the event.
After receiving approval for a donation, festival representatives â€śjust began talking about trees in Updike Park,â€ť Brennan says.
Moving the blue spruce is no longer a done deal.
â€śWeâ€™re not going to do anything at this point,â€ť says Bergeron. â€śItâ€™s yet to be determined if weâ€™re going to move the [blue spruce] or if it costs too much.â€ť Heâ€™s also concerned with finding a company of tree specialists that will guarantee the health of the fir after itâ€™s moved.
The alternative â€“ purchasing a new evergreenâ€“ may also be too costly, he notes. During a discussion with members of the merchants association and Chamber of Commerce personnel, â€śsome are in favor; some indecisive.â€ť His big concern is that if the blue spruce isnâ€™t moved soon â€“ spring would be ideal â€” it will be too late because the treeâ€™s size will be too great.
â€śThe old tree is not seriously unhealthy but itâ€™s thinning,â€ť Bergeron says. â€śOur bucket truck doesnâ€™t reach that high. For this season weâ€™re not doing anything.â€ť
On the other hand and adding to the confusion, Town Manager Michael Embury old councilors the Updike Park tree â€śis coming down this year.â€ť
So what is the final determination? Everyone is stumped.
Martha Smith is an award-winning journalist and author. Retired, she is a freelance writer for SRIN.