SCARBOROUGH — A date has been set to remove Elsie, the approximately 200-year-old elm tree that stands sentinel over Oak Hill.
The most well-known, if not the only, great elm on Route 1 will come down on Oct. 15.
The first meeting of the Ad Hoc Elm Committee was held Wednesday night at Town Hall. Town councilors, a Planning Board member, the public works director and others discussed how and when the town should celebrate Elsie, who has been showing signs of decay for several years.
Elsie’s boosters have talked about having a big celebration on the day Elsie comes down. A proposal advocated by Councilors Carol Rancourt and Karen D’Andrea has been to fell the 80-foot elm ceremoniously, as Yarmouth did in January 2010 with Herbie, that town’s renowned elm.
“There’s a lot of sentimentality for elms,” Rancourt said. She and others are also pushing to replace Elsie with a younger, healthier Elm at the same spot in front of Bangor Savings Bank.
But after hearing from Tim Lindsey of Bartlett Tree Experts, the committee agreed it would be better to celebrate Elsie when she’s replaced, not when she is removed.
That’s because tree-felling in populated, high-traffic areas like Oak Hill is more routine than dramatic. The tree will be slowly, surgically dismantled, piece-by-piece, starting at the top.
“It’s not that entertaining to watch a tree come down,” Scarborough Historical Society President Rodney Loughton said.
Public Works Director Mike Shaw said removing Elsie would involve not only cutting down the tree, but removing the stump, rehabilitating the soil, grading the surface and fixing whatever damage my come to the sidewalk and the bank’s driveway as a result of root removal.
And while a big celebration may not be appropriate for the take-down day, Shaw did recommend placing some bleachers across the street in a town-owned parking lot so that people could sit and watch the process.
Committee members also discussed taking a page from Herbie’s history by having artists and crafters create products from Elsie’s wood.
But Bill Thomas, a Scarborough resident who attended the meeting, said elm is a hearty stock of wood, and takes a long time to dry to the 6 percent moisture content necessary for furniture-grade lumber.
Thomas said that if a piece of Elsie that’s too big is placed in a kiln, the way wood is usually dried, it may even explode. Bigger pieces of wood will have to dry out naturally, over time, which could take a few years.
Thomas also said he has spoken with representatives of Hillside Lumber, who indicated they’d volunteer to mill Elsie on-site, will should make it easier to move the wood to artists’ studios or storage.
The committee will meet again at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 13 at Town Hall. Residents interested in planning Elsie’s future are invited to attend.
Elsie is the last of the giant elms that used to line Route 1 in Scarborough.