Published: Jan 12, 2013 07:00 PM
Modified: Jan 12, 2013 05:41 PM
CHAPEL HILL - Angelo Marrone, white apron tied around his belly, stepped outside Italian Pizzeria III and surveyed the 16-foot elm tree workers had just planted outside his front door.
Love it! Love it! he boomed. Missed the old one.
The new tree is part of a $105,000 Streetscape project along the 500 block of West Franklin Street. Come spring, Marrone will put tables outside so one day, as the tree stretches to 60 feet or better, diners can enjoy their slices under the leaves.
The elm harkens back to an earlier era for Chapel Hill, once lined like many towns with stately elms.
But the new tree might not have been an elm a disease-resistant hybrid had it not been for a local man who wanted to do something nice for the town.
Steven Wade, a historical researcher, read years ago how a tree in a Princeton, N.J., graveyard had somehow escaped the disease that wiped out an estimated 77 million Dutch elms in the early 1900s.
Cuttings from the Princeton elm helped to save the species.
Wade called Town Hall and met with landscape architect Emily Cameron, who showed him a catalog of trees the town was considering for West Franklin, where an old elm and maple in poor condition were cut down last summer.
Wade said he thought about it and picked an elm. He said he contributed $150.
Only after that, while doing some research, did he stumble onto a 1926 Daily Tar Heel article about the former elms on Franklin Street and realize his gift was helping to restore a town hallmark.
I knew the city plants trees; I just thought it would be a way for me to contribute, he said. I wanted to do something unusual.
Wade loves landscapes.
And I love trees, at all seasons, he added. When you stop and think about it, trees have given us a lot of delight in life.
The town approved a gifts policy in 1980 and has procedures for them. People who want to give for trees, for example, can go to the Friends of Chapel Hill Parks and Recreation website: friendschparksrec.org/
The new elm on West Franklin Street isnt the first the town has planted.
The town has planted elms near the Hargraves Center, the 100 block of East Franklin Street and on Cameron Avenue, all slightly different environments.
Theyre doing great, Cameron said. We hope for the best on this one as well.