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The 50- Year Foliage Plan | A Random Act of Canopy

The 50- Year Foliage Plan | A Random Act of Canopy
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a "Crik" Road maple growing beside feed corn
Photo/Art by Julia Shipley
a “Crik” Road maple growing beside feed corn

Drive to Irasburg along this dirt thoroughfare, locally known as The Crik (Road), and you might not notice them. But in 50 years they will be stalwart maples forming a two- mile corridor of leafy shade.  Though currently scrawny, one day their crowns will summit the air where crows glide, and branches from either side will form an arch over the road, and in autumn, it will feel as if you’re in a golden tunnel. But you and I—we might not be around to see it—that’s what makes this effort so amazing—only today’s babies will live to appreciate the full effect of 146 sugar and red maples lining the east side of the road and the 133 along the west side, each spaced roughly 20 feet apart.

When I first moved to The Crik in 2004, I noticed these spindly little trees growing at predictable intervals, lining the roadsides beside long stretches hayfields and cornfields, and although some were thriving, others looked stricken. Digging into the matter I learned the corridor was the project of a landowner I’ll call Mr. T (as in “Trees”) who envisioned about 300 maple saplings maturing into a handsome canopy. Mr. T leases his land to Fairmount Farm, the second largest dairy in Craftsbury, which raises corn and hay on it to feed their 430 milk cows. As part of the lease agreement, Fairmount is responsible for tending the single file forest, which is sometimes as needy and fragile as a sickly calf. Every spring for nearly a decade, Tucker Purchase, manager of Fairmount Farm and Stuart LaPoint, owner of LaPoint Nursery take a drive up the road and inventory the maples, which don’t like the wettish land, nor are they happy right out in the open, preferring instead to grow up in the shady forest.  Tucker and Stewart eyeball the ones that have given up, then Stuart replants, sometimes creating a mound first, to keep their roots drier.

As the road curves, they recede in the distance
Photo/Art by Julia Shipley
As the road curves, they recede in the distance

It falls to Fairmount to brush hog around the trees, and to pay Stuart for the replacements. Stuart keeps an eye on them throughout the summer, ringing up Tucker when he thinks some of them might need water or fertilizer. In other words—this future awe- inspiring corridor is an expensive, time consuming ordeal, which I think, makes it even more magical.

Nobody wants any credit, it’s kind of a pain in the butt to maintain (the trees were originally planted sometime between 2001-2004, so they’ve been replacing lost trees for ten years!) and none of these folks are going to live to see their trees’ grandeur and realize, “Oh, that was so worth it!” and yet, they all continue nurturing this vision.

Tinges of autumn in the maples on The Crick Tinges of autumn in the maples on The Crick

Meanwhile, an exhibit of what they are collectively creating is flourishing nearby. Seaver Brook Road, which T’s directly into the Crik, is lined on both sides with ancient maples. From mid- September through early October: it is a drive- thru cathedral, a golden tunnel leading one to enviously imagine the future fall foliage and spring sugaring season of a long vault of trees quietly rising on the adjacent avenue.


The "golden tunnel" of ancient maples along Seaver Brook Road
Photo/Art by Julia Shipley
The “golden tunnel” of ancient maples along Seaver Brook Road
Julia Shipley


Julia Shipley


Contributing editor, Julia Shipley's stories celebrate New Englanders' enduring connection to place. She digs up facts and stats for each issue's "By The Numbers" feature; she's also the author of Yankee's "Vermont Rural Life" blog, as well the Yankee Plus column, "The Farmer's Life." An award winning poet, her long-form lyric essay, Adam's Mark was selected as one of the Boston Globe's Best New England Books of 2014.
Updated Wednesday, August 28th, 2013

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