February 26, 2010

Yarmouth salutes a stately elm and its century-old guardian

RAY ROUTHIER

— By

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John Patriquin/Staff Photographer; Friday., August 7, 2009.100 year old Frank Knight of Yarmouth has taken care of a 200 plus year old elm tree called Herbie for the past 77 years located at the corner of Yankee Drive and Rt. 88 in Yarmouth.

click image to enlarge

John Patriquin/Staff Photographer; Friday., August 7, 2009. This plaque is attached to the trunk of a 200 plus year old elm tree called Herbie that 100 year old Frank Knight of Yarmouth has taken care for the past 77 years located at the corner of Yankee Drive and Rt. 88 in Yarmouth.

Additional Photos Below

Staff Writer

YARMOUTH — Residents and tree lovers are expected to flock to the usually quiet corner of East Main Street and Yankee Drive on Jan. 18 to say goodbye to Herbie.

That's the day Herbie, the largest American elm tree in New England, is scheduled to be cut down after a long battle with Dutch elm disease. The process is expected to take two days.

The tree is more than 230 years old and 110 feet tall, and was tended by Yarmouth's longtime tree warden, Frank Knight, for more than 50 years.

When plans for the tree's removal were announced last summer, Knight, who's 101, was doubtful he'd want to be present to see Herbie come down. But now he's thinking he might go to say goodbye to his old friend after all.

''I'm going to call (Knight) in the middle of the first day and let him know where we're at, and he just might come,'' said Debra Hopkins, the current tree warden.

Workers from Whitney Tree Service of Gray are scheduled to begin cutting around 8 a.m. on Jan. 18, Hopkins said. Several streets in the area will be closed all day, and there will be a roped-off area for people to stand and watch the cutting. The streets will remain closed until the tree is completely down, probably sometime on Jan. 19.

Hopkins expects that many people will want to be there on Herbie's last day. She has some advice for them.

''It will be important for people to be out of the way,'' she said. ''Some of these limbs will be 18 feet long.''

Herbie got its name sometime in the 1950s. Knight said the tree was named by Donna Felker, who lived nearby when she was a child and is now in her 60s.

Around that time, Knight began taking down other elms as Dutch elm disease raged through town. He tried hard not to take Herbie, choosing instead to have the tree get strategic prunings and inoculations of fungicide to keep it alive.

But last year, Hopkins and Knight decided that the disease was fatal, and that Herbie had to come down.

A committee has been formed to have Herbie's wood made into various objects by woodworkers, including bookmarks that might sell for $4 or $5, Hopkins said. Mementos will probably go on sale in February.

Hopkins has said that taking Herbie down will probably cost about $6,000, and that it may cost another $12,000 or more to mill and dry the tree's wood for use.

For more information on the cutting and creating of objects -- collectively known as the Herbie Project -- go to Yarmouth's town Web site, www.yarmouth.me.us.

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

rrouthier@pressherald.com

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Additional Photos

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John Patriquin/Staff Photographer: Frank Knight of Yarmouth worked for more than 50 years to keep Herbie alive.

  


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