WALPOLE - A recently felled, century-old maple tree on Gould Street will be put to good use as its owner donated the more than 12,000 pounds of wood to the Wampanoag Indian Program at Plimoth Plantation.
A recently felled, century-old maple tree on Gould Street will be put to good use as its owner donated the more than 12,000 pounds of wood to the Wampanoag Indian Program at Plimoth Plantation.
On Aug. 14, the Board of Selectmen voted to cut the tree down because it posed a public safety hazard.
Martha Hurney, who has lived at 186 Gould St. since 1967, decided to "put it to good use."
Fresh from a visit to Plimoth Plantation, she knew where to send it.
The Wampanoag program uses donated wood to reproduce 16th-century-style artifacts for exhibits, and also to heat traditional native homes and cook traditional foods. These activities educate visitors about life in New England around the time Europeans first made contact with Native Americans.
Last week, two representatives from the program loaded large sections of the tree onto a big flatbed pickup truck outside Hurney's house.
They drove all the way to Walpole, they said, because it isn't every day someone offers to donate an old, hardwood tree.
Assistant program manager Jonathan Perry pointed to a burl on one of the tree sections and said that it would probably make a good bowl once it was hollowed out.
The larger pieces of wood might be used to make the traditional style dug-out canoes called "mushoons," Perry said.
Hurney was pleased with how the Wampanoags planned to use the wood.
"They would have just ground it up into mulch to make fake plywood," she said.
Instead, "it will take its place in history."
Back in August, Hurney told selectmen that since she purchased her home in 1967 "there isn't a day that goes by when I don't love that tree."
She could have appealed selectmen's decision, but ultimately she agreed with them that the tree was a potential hazard.
She stayed mostly inside her home while a contractor cut it down two weeks ago. It made her cry all day, she said.
However, her very first meeting with the Wampanoag workers comforted her.
"They were so grateful. ... There's a gentleness and a respect and a community with nature," Hurney said.
"They have respect for the same things I do," she added.
Perry said that Hurney called them wanting to donate her tree so it could be put to good use.
"And we can always use more wood," he said.
Much of the work done at the plantation centers around fire, he explained. Having a fire leaves one's hands free to do other things.
The Wampanoags traditionally used fire to shape tools and utensils, he said.
As Perry talked, Hurney listened carefully. Before long, Perry and Dylan Lach - a program artisan - had the tree mostly loaded up.
While Lach started up a chainsaw to cut up the final section, Hurney looked at the front of her home.
"It needs to be painted," she said. Now that the tree is gone you can tell that much, Hurney said.
"And (the house) looks smaller" without the tree in front, she added.
Eventually, the old maple's stump will be uprooted. In its place Hurney will plant a 5-foot-high weeping cutleaf Japanese red maple, whose canopy will fill the space where the old maple's trunk used to be.