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Harmon Field begins master plan for tree planting

PCCF awards park $7k grant

Harmon Field in Tryon is working toward a long-term plan for tree planting after losing more than a dozen trees over the past three years.

The Polk County Community Foundation recently awarded the park a $7,000 grant from its Unrestricted Fund for developing the plan.

“Over the past three years, Harmon Field has lost over a dozen ‘noble’ trees, such as sycamore, black walnut and locust,” states the grant application. “Many of these trees are believed to have been original plantings, dating back to the park inception in 1927. These 60-plus foot trees have also provided much needed shade and an aesthetic backdrop to our beloved park. Recent visits from arborists, horticulturalists and tree trimmers have all led to a similar conclusion: many more of these trees will die off over the next decade.”

Harmon Field held an informational meeting on Jan. 11 asking the public for input regarding trees at the park.

Approximately 12 people attended the round table meeting. Linda Ligon suggested clusters of trees around the park to provide opportunities of shade for people visiting. Libbie Johnson cautioned officials that some trees are toxic to horses, including red maples. Johnson asked that great care be taken in selecting trees even away from the equestrian side of the park.

Landscape architect Mark Byington presented Harmon Field’s conditions and reviewed diseases of trees across the state.

Another topic of discussion was officials’ desire to make Harmon Field an educational center about tree species.

Harmon Field Parks and Recreation Supervisor George Alley said the main goal of the grant is long-term planning. He said the river corridor needs attention, as well as the front border. Alley said officials are considering an ordinance to deal with a host of issues.

The grant will be used to pay for tree inventory and analysis ($1,750), long-range vegetation management and planting master plan development ($4,150), short-term implementation strategy ($1,350), planting guideline development ($400), as well as to assist in the formulation of a community tree commission and a town tree ordinance, according to the grant application.

“Although the desire has been to plop down a new tree in the vicinity of each one felled, the prudent approach is to create a long-term plan to manage the park and town tree canopy,” states the grant application. “The Harmon Field Board of Supervisors has been concerned with not only replacing trees, but making sure that future maintenance is both defined and cost effective.”

The first step in creating a master plan will be to create an inventory of the trees.

This phase is required to understand the current tree and vegetation conditions on the property so as to properly plan for current and future needs, according to Alley. Harmon Field plans to coordinate with a registered local surveyor to locate all existing trees and implement the data into current topographic survey data.

The inventory and analysis will identify plant species and conditions, as well as any potential liabilities.

The inventory will identify where a qualified arborist needs to engage.

Harmon Field, owned by the Town of Tryon, collaborates with more than two dozen community groups that offer programs and special events at the park. The cabin and picnic shelters serve more than 200 groups each year and the athletic facilities serve more than 800 children annually through recreation leagues and camps.

Special events, such as the Blue Ridge Barbecue and Music Festival, which is the North Carolina State Championship barbecue competition, bring in more than 20,000 visitors from the region annually.