White oak planted in celebration of the nation’s first arborist law

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Photo by Shirley Murtha

First Selectman Scott Kuhnly (r.) placed the first shovelful of dirt while Friends of Holcomb Farm board member Eric Lukingbeal looked on.

To celebrate the passage of the nation’s first Arborist Law right here in the State of Connecticut 100 years ago, the Connecticut Tree Protective Association (CTPA) provided a white oak for each of the state’s 169 towns. 

John Kehoe, a state arborist associated with the University of Connecticut, noticed that the tree for Granby had not yet been delivered. He contacted Public Works Director Kirk Severance, who put him in touch with Eric Lukingbeal, the board member of the Friends of Holcomb Farm who has spearheaded the formation of the tree trail on the eastern property of the Farm off of Day Street. 

On Sept. 18, the Town Manager, First Selectman and Friends of Holcomb Farm gathered to plant the tree.

Around the turn of the 20th Century, the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station recognized that there were no regulations regarding who could call themself an arborist. Many self-appointed tree experts were far from it, and often caused damage to trees that were being attacked by the gypsy moth and chestnut blight disease as well as other ordinary problems. 

The Experiment Station and other
organizations and individuals proposed the Tree Expert Law, which eventually became the Arborist Law in the state’s General Statutes. It requires anyone who wants to sell his or her services as a tree expert must demonstrate knowledge of trees and tree care by taking a rigorous exam.

The exam includes a section on safety — to prevent accidents to the arborist, his or her co-workers, and the public at large. The mishandling of trees and their limbs by inexperienced and/or untrained people takes many lives every year. Having the would-be arborist demonstrate knowledge of safe techniques goes a long way to prevent such bodily harm.

Three years after the passage of the Arborist Law, the CTPA was formed in 1922 to help train those applying to obtain an arborist license. The association counts over 800 members today. The state currently has close to 1,000 licensed arborists.

Unfortunately, not many states are as strict in training and licensing arborists. In fact, the majority of states do not require such qualifications. The fact that Connecticut does, speaks to the importance our state places on trees and their safe, intelligent handling.