A new assessment of the condition of the Norway maple trees that line Parsons Beach Road will be done as early as next week, as town officials work with the Parsons Beach Association to determine next steps in protecting public safety while preserving the beloved canopy of trees. Credit: Donna Buttarazzi | York County Coast Star

KENNEBUNK, Maine — A new assessment of the condition of the Norway maple trees that line Parsons Beach Road will be done as early as next week, as town officials work with the Parsons Beach Association to determine next steps in protecting public safety while preserving the beloved canopy of trees.

Representatives from the Parsons Beach Association met with town officials and members of the Tree Committee Tuesday in what Town Manager Mike Pardue said was a collaborative discussion focusing first and foremost on public safety.

“We are moving post haste to have another tree assessment done, at the request of the family, so that we can have a clear understanding of the condition of the trees. The old assessment is nine years old,” Pardue said. “We agreed that public safety is at the forefront for everyone, and the canopy is a priority to be retained or recreated.”

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Julia Burns Riley, a member of the Parsons family and of the Parsons Beach Association, said the family hopes to develop a foundation to fund a larger scale project to replace damaged trees as needed and rebuild and maintain the canopy.

“We need to talk more about what this would look like – what trees and how many need to be replaced. We have a family reunion this summer and we’d love to have the younger generation take this on as their project,” she said.

Town officials will meet with the Parsons Beach Association lawyer Paul Driscoll of the Norman, Hanson and DeTroy law firm out of Portland to do a site walk.

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Several of the nearly 100-year-old Norway maple trees were slated to come down on April 1. Wayne Cutting, a member of the town’s Tree Committee and the town tree warden, said at a special meeting held last week that they began working on a phased solution for the trees in 2011. According to Director of Community Development/Town Engineer Christopher Osterrieder, a number of Norway Maple trees were removed in the first phase of the project in 2012 and replaced with Swamp White Oak.

The town halted plans to cut down the trees after public outcry and several members of the Parsons family said they were not aware and would like to be involved in the process.

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Selectman Blake Baldwin, who took part in Tuesday’s meeting along with Pardue, Osterreider, the four Tree Committee members and five representatives from the Parsons Beach Association, said he is committed on behalf of the town to trying to safely preserve the iconic canopy.

“We focused first on public safety because that is our finest duty of loyalty to not only our residents but visitors to town, but we also wanted to recognize the contributions the Parsons family has made to the town over the years,” Baldwin said. “You can’t look anywhere in town and not see some effect from the Parsons family.

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“George Parsons built the library, and he didn’t just give the money to build it, he built it himself on land where his home used to exist. We have Parsons Field, Parsons Beach, Parsons Road,” he continued. “We will take care of public safety first, and try as best we can to preserve the canopy and continue to pay homage to Henry Parsons who planted those trees almost 100 years ago.”

Pardue said the Swamp White Oak trees that were ordered as part of a state grant awarded to the town will be held in a “mini-nursery” at the town’s Public Works facility until new plans are finalized. He said the Parsons Beach Association members who attended Tuesday’s meeting said the family would be willing to reimburse the town for any financial loss that may be incurred.

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Michael Greeley, who serves as the chairman of the PBA long range planning committee spoke at the Selectmen’s meeting Tuesday night, saying the meeting with town officials was “very productive and we found a lot of common ground.”

“We share the concern around safety but also the aesthetics of the boulevard. The commitment we made today is we will enthusiastically support an assessment of the trees, and we would make any necessary financial contribution to cover those costs,” he said.