NEW MILFORD — For nearly 30 years, Carlos Caridad has cared for trees professionally, a passion he’s nurtured since he was a child.

He’s spent half of that time taking care of New Milford’s trees. He served 10 years as the town’s deputy tree warden and now as the tree warden, a position he’s held for five years.

The tree warden's responsibilities include approving the planting, pruning or removal of trees along public roads and in public spaces. A tree warden’s chief concern is public safety, according to the Department of Energy and Environmental

Protection.

Some of his dedication is evident on the town green. He found two sycamore trees growing at the town-owned Sega Meadows 16 years ago. With the help of an anonymous donor, he was able to move them and plant them in the green where they still stand.

Q: How and why did you become the tree warden?

A: Phil Lovell was the town tree warden for many years, and when he retired, I took over. I have happily served on a number of town commissions and committees, but my passion has always been trees. With any interaction I have with town residents, I try to educate people about the value and proper care of trees.

Q: What is the importance of having a tree warden?

A: Since 1901, Connecticut law has mandated that each town have an acting tree warden. The appreciation for the value of town trees goes back to a time when the shade afforded to draft animals was an important benefit provided by municipal shade trees. While municipal trees are a unique and important community asset, they are also subjected to adverse conditions, which require attention. Today, while the reasons trees provide value have changed, their overall importance has only increased.

Q: Why did you decide to become an arborist?

A: As a child, I was always captivated by the beauty of trees. I have fond childhood memories of summers spent playing in my grandfather’s orchard in Spain. To this day, I constantly marvel at the presence and grace of mature shade trees.

Q: What is the importance of having trees in town?

A: Town trees are a major asset and contribute greatly to the beauty and character of New Milford. They provide visual softening to the hard lines of buildings and roads. Trees create a cool and inviting visual and physical oasis from what would otherwise be a barren landscape. If you have any doubts about the value of street trees, look at before and after pictures of cities that have lost significant portions of their urban forest. Worcester, Mass., which has recently lost thousands of trees to the introduced Asian Longhorn Beetle, and our own New Haven, which not so long ago lost thousands of elms to Dutch Elm disease, have learned the hard way the incredible value of municipal trees. Trees in the landscape serve as a living connection to the past and our hope for the future.

Q: Are there any challenges facing the trees in town? What can people do to help?

A: We are on the cusp of an invasion by the relatively new, non-native pest called the Emerald Ash Borer. It will devastate all the ash trees in New Milford. Ash trees make up a significant portion of municipal trees and unfortunately there is no stopping this infestation. The demise of this segment of the forest will create additional demands on an already tight town tree budget. Unfortunately, some Connecticut towns which invested heavily in planting ash trees are regretting that decision. The lesson of not planting monocultures sadly repeats itself. I am hopeful that residents of New Milford appreciated the importance of trees and are willing to see reasonable expenditures by the town to care for our trees and invest in regular plantings to replace trees that we lose.

Q: What is something you wish everyone knew about trees and tree care?

A: Tree care is a specialized profession that has greatly evolved in the last 20 to 30 years. Because someone is good at running a chainsaw does not mean they are an arborist. If you invest in caring for trees you own, only use a state-licensed arborist. I always tell people, every arborist is a tree man….but not every tree man is an arborist. We are very fortunate to have a number of very good professional tree companies locally. Be willing to pay for their services. If you are willing to pay for quality tree care, you will only cry once. Lastly, I like to remind people that the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago….the second best time is now.

kkoerting@newstimes.com; 203-731-3345; @kkoerting