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Moravian College to Remove Elm Tree on Church Street for Public Safety

Bethlehem, Pa., March 1, 2007— Moravian College will remove the large Scotch elm tree on West Church Street near Main Hall early next week. After shading Moravians, Bethlehem residents and visitors for well over a century, the tree is showing signs of its age. Decay in its trunk and leaders, storm damage, large cavities, cracked branches, and other forms of wear-and-tear make the venerable elm a hazard to people, cars and nearby buildings, according to a report by arborists from Bartlett Tree Experts of Dublin, Pennsylvania. They estimate that the severely restricted root zone may not be strong enough to keep supporting the tree. There aren’t any accepted arboricultural procedures that could reduce the risk of “tree failure.” Rather than wait for the elm to fall and possibly cause injury to pedestrians or damage to property, the College has decided to remove it in a controlled manner during spring break week beginning on March 5.

Late last year a lateral limb fell and struck the nearby Frueauff House. The College then contracted with Barlett Tree Experts to conduct a Tree Structure Evaluation Report. The experts concluded that the tree poses “a high risk of failure due to the extensive decay in the leaders and the main trunk.” The report strongly recommended removal of the tree which poses and “unacceptable risk of failure,” due to the severity of the defects found in the trunk leaders, and limbs, the large size of the tree, the extreme restriction of the root system, as well as the risk to people and structures beneath and near the tree.

The campus community will hold a ceremony on Friday, March 2 at 1 p.m. to commemorate the long-life and neighborly presence of the grand old elm tree on Church Street.  The program will include a welcome by Rev. Dave Bennett, chaplain, followed by words from Donald St. John, professor of  religion.  The tree will be memorialized in song by Kelly Schmidt '06. A Wendell Berry poem, “The Old Elm Tree,” will be recited by Kathleen Pennepacker '07, Zinzendorf Society.  The Environmental Coalition will distribute new seedlings to guests and Moravian College president Christopher Thomforde, will provide concluding reflections. In the event of inclement weather, the program will be held in the reception area of Main Hall.

In order to create something of permanence from the tree, the college will save some of the burls from the tree and attempt to obtain a slab cut for use in creating an interior display on the Hurd Campus.