There’s pruning, then there’s pruning

Published 7:21 pm Tuesday, November 3, 2015

People almost unanimously hate to see the power company’s tree pruners coming down the road. They butcher trees with abandon.

Well, not really. They do get a little carried away sometimes, it seems, but if you’ve ever lost your electricity during an ice storm, you gain a new appreciation for what the tree pruners are trying to prevent.

And then, there’s Grace Street. The ornamental trees along Grace Street were pruned pretty dramatically by the utility company’s contractor in late summer (which, by the way, is probably not the most ideal time to prune trees). Then, it was the town’s turn. Seems the Smithfield Volunteer Fire Department complained of whacking limbs while driving down Grace Street, and the town, appropriately eager to help emergency services get its job done, brought in its own contractor.

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The result was the shearing of trees just about even with the curb line all the way along Grace Street. It looks awful.

One of the things that distinguishes Smithfield — that makes it so attractive — is its tree inventory. And a lot of effort and money has gone into increasing the number of trees during the past several decades.

No, we don’t want to see scratches on fire trucks. But a little prudence, just a touch of sensitivity, a nod to the ambience of the town, would likely have accomplished that was needed on Grace Street without the savage butchery that was allowed.

The trees there will be years recovering and never will completely regain their shape. And we suspect that, just about the time they eventually look halfway presentable again, some fire truck driver is going to bump a mirror against a limb — or, Heaven forbid, break one — and the butchers will be called back in.

Tree pruning is not an all-or-nothing proposition. It requires some sensitivity. If contractors are going to be turned loose, it might behoove the town to have an agreement whereby somebody can protect the town’s interest in beautification while doing what’s necessary for safety.