June 26, 2020
Where the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail runs through the town of Gardiner and crosses over Farmer’s Turnpike, there is an area of solstice, shade and, most recently, cause for celebration. It stands proudly in the form of a silver maple tree.
This month, the tree celebrates the 25th anniversary of its planting.
In June 1995, a group of Gardiner residents and local businesses got together to fund the placement of a small sapling into its new home. The tree was meant to be the first step in establishing a “pocket park” along the Rail Trail. The purpose of the pocket park was to create a small open space for public use. Today, the sapling has grown into a large Silver Maple that makes the park more inviting.
A sign placed at the base of the tree when it was planted, gives us some insight into its past. Those who provided it are mentioned as the Rosendale Nursery, Peg Lotvin, Grindstone Dairy Svc, Barbara Sammons, and Ken Law.
The sign also lists some of the tree’s vital statistics that can give us an idea of what it used to look like. At its planting in 1995, the maple stood at 11.5 feet, and its DBH, or Diameter at Breast Height (a method used to measure the size of a trunk), was just 1.5 inches – you could wrap your two fingers around it.
The sign suggests a celebration be held in June 2020 on the “silver anniversary” of the tree planting and new vital statistics be collected.
Unfortunately, public gatherings are not recommended for much of this year. While we will not be able to have an official celebration in June, and possibly not for the rest of the year, we did have the tree’s vitals collected earlier in the month so we can see how far it has come.
Certified Arborist Erik Richards, of Limber Tree Services, met a representative from the Wallkill Valley Land Trust at the Silver Maple earlier this month. The tree’s growth didn’t disappoint. In the last 25 years, the tree has stretched its shoots and thickened its trunk to reach a new height of 45 feet and a DBH of 14 inches.
The rapid growing nature of Silver Maple trees is part of what makes this species popular. They are known to grow at least two feet per year. The tree breed is also attractive thanks to the shade provided by its large canopy which in prime conditions can spread up to 50 feet in diameter. The leaves of a Silver Maple are deeply lobed and light green but, it is their silver toned underside that gives the tree its name.
The Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum) is native to eastern North America and well adapted to a variety of soil conditions. It can tolerate both flooding and moderate drought events, making it pretty low maintenance. Older trees are prone to limb breakage and the trees should be pruned periodically to maintain health. Silver Maples have an average lifespan of 80 years. This is good news for Gardiner’s maple which on its silver anniversary, can still be considered in the prime of its life.
The pandemic we are now experiencing has had many unexpected impacts. One is that we are unable to hold a proper public celebration for this natural town relic. Luckily, another is that people are using our trails and open spaces more than ever. The Wallkill Valley Rail Trail is no exception. We encourage you to not let this anniversary go by unnoticed.
Visit the tree on your own and have a personal commemoration to honor the silver anniversary of this silver maple. Use #gardinersilvermaple to share your celebrations.
Please donate today!