Maywood neighbors mourn 200-year-old tree felled by disease

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Maywood neighbors mourn 200-year-old tree felled by disease

Postby MaywoodBiz » Tue Jul 12, 2011 6:27 pm

Maywood neighbors mourn 200-year-old tree felled by disease

Monday, July 11, 2011 Last updated: Tuesday July 12, 2011, 7:46 AM
BY MONSY ALVARADO
STAFF WRITER

The Record

MAYWOOD — The big old tree provided shade on hot summer days. Its wide trunk was a place where children took cover during hide and seek games. And at night the moonlight shined through its thick limbs.
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TYSON TRISH/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
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Walter Von Borstel of Century Tree Service cuts the base of the 200-year-old elm tree.
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ELIZABETH LARA / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
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The elm tree sitting in a Golf Avenue back yard before it was cut down Monday.
The approximately 200-year-old elm tree behind a residential home on Golf Avenue saw a neighborhood of two-story homes sprout around it, and local youngsters grow into adults and have children of their own.

But its owner and neighbors were grieving the loss of the big tree on Monday when it was torn down after it was diagnosed with Dutch elm disease — an illness which prevents water movement in the tree causing extreme wilting.

 “We cared for it like a child,” said Adele Menzer, who moved to the property where the tree stood in 1958. “It’s very traumatic for me today, but I had no other choice.”

Menzer said the enormous tree required a trim almost every year. The tree stopped walkers in their tracks, Menzer recalled, saying at times after dinner she would find landscapers and neighbors staring at the tree in awe.

“They marveled at it,” she said.

Three weeks ago, she noticed browning leaves, and feared that it could be sick. When it was diagnosed, Menzer said her eyes filled with tears.

“It was so healthy a few weeks ago,” she said.

Dutch elm disease is caused by a fungus that moves from tree to tree on the bodies of bark beetles. It can also spread by the root system to adjacent trees.

It is called “Dutch” elm disease because scientists in the Netherlands first identified it in the early part of the 20th Century, but the fungus originated in Asia. It came to the United States in 1930 on a diseased shipment of wood. It quickly spread, killing millions of American elms.

The disease has claimed other trees in Bergen County, including some at the Greenbrook Sanctuary in Tenafly and along East Palisade Avenue in Englewood a few years ago.

Christine Garip Vareles, of Maywood, whose backyard on East Magnolia Avenue abuts Menzer’s property, said her family has lived in her home for 50 years. The elm shaded her deck, and was a place where squirrels and birds lived.

“This tree has seen a lot,” she said. “If only trees could talk.”

Walter Von Borstel, owner of Century Tree Service in Paramus, who was hired to chop the tree, said it is around 200 years old. He said the diameter of its base is about 12 feet, and the tree stands about 60 feet tall. Its leaf canopy stretches about 150 feet and across at least three residential properties, he said.

“It’s one of the biggest trees I’ve taken down,” said Von Borstel, who has owned his tree business since 1963.
It’s not known whether the Maywood elm is the largest of its kind in Bergen County, but some of its dimensions are bigger than some trees included in the state’s Division of Park and Forestry “champion big tree register.” The 2010-11 list includes five trees in Bergen County, including a 92-foot red oak in Wyckoff whose trunk circumference measures 23 feet 2 inches and its crown spreads 100 feet, according to the list. There are no

Bergen County elm trees included in the list.

In Maywood, the crew began work to cut the tree around 7 a.m. Monday, and planned to stay till about 7 p.m., Von Borstel said. The workers used a crane, which was parked in Vareles backyard, to bring down large pieces of the limbs and trunk.

 “We have a big crane, a big log truck, big chipper,” he said. “Everything has to be big for this job.”

Von Borstel said he’s been taking care of the tree for Menzer for 10 years.

“I’m heart-broken,” he said. “It’s a beautiful, gorgeous tree, and there’s not many of them left.”
Mary Ellen Hunkele who moved to her home on East Magnolia Avenue in 1968 said her four grown children would play underneath the “elegant tree” when they were small. On Monday, she saw the tree service vehicles parked on the street, and thought maybe they were there for maintenance.

“I thought it would last forever,” she said. “It was here when we got here, and I just expected it to be here when we are gone.”

E-mail: alvarado@northjersey.com
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