La Bella Fontana

Report from Bellefonte PA, by Helen Fontana Bechdel

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Tree are a key part of landscape

When I hear the whine of a chain saw cutting down another tree in town, I think of New Hope wood sculptor George Nakashima's belief that every tree has a soul.

But when shade trees that grow in the right-of-way must be removed, the borough replaces them. The real tragedy would be treeless streets.

When I had to have a sugar maple taken down a few years ago, I waited impatiently for a new tree until, finally, I asked someone on Borough Council, "Who do I see to get a tree?"

The answer came back like a shot: "Joe Masullo."

Joe, who was on borough council for many years before his death last summer, had the tenacity of a terrier and the chutzpah of Gen. Patton pushing through the German line. One day after calling him, I had my tree, a pretty crimson maple, 8 feet tall. I keep checking the terminal buds, eager to see this little tree leaf out for its second season.

Bellefonte people are proud of their trees, but some stand out more than others. A stately ginkgo tree at the corner of North Spring and West Linn streets recalls its origin in the temple gardens of China.

The Japanese cherry trees flanking the entrance to the library will soon burst with pink blossoms. Walking under their branches last spring was like walking into a sunrise. There are a few copper beech trees left, one on the corner of North Allegheny and East Curtin and several on East Linn Street, but their ancestor, the giant copper beech at 420 N. Allegheny St. had to be cut down in 1993. Heart rot was the cause, but heartache is more like it. The tree was so huge it lifted a heavy crane right off the ground.

Last fall, a man in a pickup truck stopped to take pictures of a large sycamore on my street. Even though its leaves had fallen, the twisting branches and mottled bark created a stark pattern against the sky.

This time of the year, I stumble over gumballs that fall from the sweetgum trees, but soon I will shuffle through the golden fluff of the lindens that line High Street.

Last summer, an ancient maple fell over from a front yard on Linn Street. As if aiming for the perfect spot, it landed between two buildings with no damage to either. One of the last things Joe Masullo did was to make sure the borough would cover the cost of removal.


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