Bath city arborist retires after nearly 15 years on the job

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BATH — Henry David Thoreau once said he took a walk in the woods, and emerged taller than the trees.

Those perennial plants have enhanced Tom Hoerth’s life, too.

The Gray resident retired last month after a nearly 15-year career as Bath’s arborist and tree warden, although stewardship of nature continues to play a major role in his endeavors.

Trees are “the largest living organisms on Earth,” Hoerth said Monday. “Each one’s an individual, and … they have fascinated humans for some time, in terms of their spiritual meaning, what they provide as a resource, and just their impact on the human psyche. They’re wonderful things.

“I always tell people, it all comes back to trees,” he added.

Hoerth, who grew up on an orchard on Long Island, New York, and did tree work in high school, said he served on Bath’s Forestry Committee for three years before becoming arborist and tree warden. He became a forestry intern in 1999 and part-time arborist in 2001, going to full time in 2005, according to information provided by the city.

Prior to joining the committee, Hoerth was teaching seventh-grade science in Windham and had read about the panel conducting a street tree inventory, thinking it would make a good project for his students. He asked the city for a copy of its inventory and received the entire document, and soon afterward filled an opening on the committee.

Hoerth, who is married and has two daughters, passed a state licensing test to practice arboriculture, and afterward was certified by the International Society of Arboriculture.

While his work for the city at first was part time, Hoerth started a private tree business, which he scaled back as his city job expanded to full time.

As arborist, his job included planting, pruning, watering and inventorying trees, as well as cutting them down. As tree warden, a post to which he was reappointed each year, he oversaw enforcement of the city’s tree ordinance.

Hoerth’s final day on the job was Jan. 22. The city has posted the position on its website, cityofbath.com, and a review of applications will begin March 2.

The job “is a stewardship position, and it’s a way to be involved in the community, and it’s a way to contribute to a community, and give back,” Hoerth said.

Hoerth said he has purchased land in the north end of the city that also requires stewardship.

“We’re looking to develop a sustainable organic farm out there, and we’re looking to be a community member in a different fashion,” the 55-year-old said. “To be able to do both requires a lot of time, so it made the most sense timing-wise to leave the city and focus on that.”

The property has a large number of maple trees, which Hoerth said he plans to tap. He sees Middle Hoerth Winter Gardens as a a four-season farming operation, which will be open for tours, workshops and educational opportunities.

Hoerth added that “part and parcel of stewardship is education, so that was part of the city position, and it’s also going to be a huge part of this next endeavor.”

He has received several honors during his time with Bath, including Morse High School’s Mainsail Award, and the Green Leaf Award from the New England Chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture.

But the job itself was his biggest reward.

“I think the biggest honor I had was the opportunity to be able to serve the community of Bath,” Hoerth said.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

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Tom Hoerth retired last month as Bath’s longtime arborist and tree warden.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.