A section of the red pines to be removed later this month can be seen standing in the background on both sides of the flagpole. Contributed

FARMINGTON — The campus surrounding Franklin Community Health Network (FCHN) contains acres of tall red pine trees, planted in the 1940s with the intent to harvest for lumber at maturity. They were planted close together, which has made them prone to disease because they were not harvested as intended.

In 2017, Franklin received a forest pathologist’s assessment from the Maine Forest Service regarding the general health of the trees. The 2017 report and subsequent assessments have determined that many are prone to two common diseases: Diplodia tip blight and Sirococcus shoot blight, as well as insect infestations by native bark beetles. Many of the pine needles have turned a dry red color from disease.

As Franklin monitored the condition of the trees over the past three years, the network received an assessment from a local professional forester that their health is in a state of rapid decline. As a result, the most compromised trees were tagged and removed last August.

In mid-January, FCHN will harvest all remaining red pines on campus. This phase involves large equipment. The ground must be frozen hard – preferably with snow on it – to protect the ground from the equipment. The work, to be done as soon as ground conditions are ideal, will occur over a weekend to minimally impact the hospital’s normal services.

The positive news is that the forests around the campus will bounce back to life because a variety of younger hardwood trees are growing under the canopy of the tall pines.

FCHN is partnering with the Farmington Conservation Commission to develop a plan to replant portions of the harvested areas closer to the buildings and is pursuing a possible grant from the Maine Forest Service to help with replanting costs.

In the coming months, the network will solicit feedback from hospital employees and the community to design landscapes for all to enjoy.

For more information, call Jill Gray, FCHN community relations director, at 207-779-2555 or read more about Sirococcus shoot blight at digitalmaine.com/for_docs/96.

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