The Morristown selectboard’s newest member is seeing green and is working to bring more shade trees to the downtown and make sure the town maintains some natural areas as new construction over the past few years continues apace.
“The more and more people we have stacked up on top of each other, the more they’re going to be looking for green spaces,” Jess Graham said last week, during the board’s Oct. 18 meeting.
Graham, who was appointed to the board in June, was subsequently named the board’s liaison to the town’s conservation commission following an executive session at the selectboard’s Oct. 4 meeting.
And she’s been busy in that role. Graham has taken on the task of seeking out a person to act in the role of tree warden, a currently vacant position, and is advocating for the town to come up with a vision for at least one high-visibility vacant lot in the downtown.
According to the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation, state law requires each municipality to appoint a tree warden, who is responsible for trees on public property, whether that’s town greens, schools, road rights-of-way or roundabouts. Morristown doesn’t have one.
Graham reached out to the town’s former warden, David Stevens, who recommended the town find someone who at least “has an interest and involvement in natural resources,” since it might be tough to find someone like an arborist.
“With all the strange weather we’ve been having, with all the droughts and everything, which I would attribute to climate change, a lot of the trees have been really stressed,” Graham said.
Graham also proposed putting out a request for bidders to consult with the town to create a “vision and strategy document” for the vacant lot at the corner of Main and Portland streets. A Sunoco gas station was located there until early last winter, but it was razed and is now a dirt and gravel lot surrounded by concrete barriers and fences.
The vision document would direct whoever buys the property — whether it be the town or a private individual or corporation — to take into consideration things like green spaces, public art or public parking.
The proposal also originally included the building at the corner of Portland and Hutchins streets owned by the Nepveu family. The town had come close to purchasing the building for $1.4 million in 2014, with the intent of tearing it down and putting a new municipal building there, and even had it on the town meeting ballot, but the owners took it off the market just two weeks before Town Meeting Day.