Historic Tree Walk, Salve Regina University

Lenny Mercier (center)

Lenny Mercier (center)

Spring can be really hectic for an arborist, especially this spring. Winter seemed so long, and spring seemed suspended within the weather patterns of March and April. Where did the month of May go? Well, this year, when May finally hit Rhode Island two days before June, people came out in droves, and arborists were suddenly and furiously in demand. The fast lane went from a three lane highway to an eight lane stampede. It can be difficult to stop and breathe at times until we are finally forced to slow it down a bit. With an invitation to walk the grounds of Salve Regina University with my friend and co-arborist Lenny Mercier, who manages the grounds, I knew I’d be in for nice change of pace.

When I am asked to walk a historic property like that of Salve Regina University in Newport, Rhode Island to talk to people about trees, I am happy to stop and bask in the canopy of arboricultural history. I step from the fast lane, the world slows, and my fellow tree-huggers join me for a walk in this park-like campus that hugs the shores of both Narragansett Bay, and the Atlantic ocean.

Copper beech, 150-year-old weeping European beeches, lindens, and sprawling London plane trees spread their tender leaves across spring-greened lawns. I find myself in heaven with a group of cherubic followers walking from tree to tree within the breezes of the salty Newport sea air. Faces light when I explain that the first shipments of Asian trees to enter the Western hemisphere came to these shores through the efforts of Doctor George Rogers Hall from the nearby town of Bristol, Rhode Island. Ears pick up when I explain that our trees were all cut by colonial settlers only to be replaced during the nineteenth century by European, Asian, and Mid-Eastern exotics. Brows are raise when I speak of large living garden antiquities whose fluted columns and wide arches frame the lawns, buildings, and ocean views. As Thomas Morton, a seventeenth century botanist and explorer of the early American forest, once noted in regards to the seventeenth century forest, “I did not think that in all the knowne world it could be paralleld … in my eye t’was nature’s masterpiece(!)” And so, the Newport urban forest calls to my eye as a singular canopied masterpiece to soften the senses, and shield them from the hustle and bustle of daily life.

The breezes rustle through the leaves, the tree huggers smile and nod their appreciation, and both my mind and my body relax within the splendor a New England spring day. It makes me thankful to be a Newport arborist working for Bartlett Tree Experts. My very grateful thanks to Lenny Mercier of Salve Regina University for continuing to invite me and sustain my need for such a walk on such a lovely campus. We all had a twinkle in our eye when one guest observed that Salve Regina University must be one of the top five most beautiful campuses in the United States. I don’t know if it is true but I knew that Lenny’s world had relaxed into the same calm that mine had with such a lovely comment on such a lovely day.

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About Christopher Fletcher

Local Manager - Seekonk, RI
Landscape Design - University of Rhode Island

Employed for 14 years with Bartlett Tree Experts as an Arborist Representative and Local Manager. Has a special interest in beech tree preservation inspired by many of the fine beech trees populating the Newport, Rhode Island landscape. Interests include natural history, American history, biking, and tree lore.

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