A Norway maple tree in Ridgefield is the largest in CT. It could also be the largest in the country.

RIDGEFIELD — A notable Norway maple behind the Ridgefield Guild of Artists could soon be recognized as one of the largest trees in the nation.

John Kelly, of Pound Ridge, N.Y., is nominating the mammoth maple for American Forests’ National Champion Trees program with the hopes of adding it to its national registry. The nonprofit launched the campaign in 1940 to locate the country’s largest living trees.

Kelly first encountered the tree last summer when he was invited to view some artwork at the guild. At first he thought it couldn’t be a Norway maple, since they’re typically long and slender.

“This (one) was fat, stubby and perfectly round, which is very unusual,” he said in an earlier interview.

Kelly has an “uncommon interest” in trees since his property was once home to the second largest tulip tree in the nation, as designated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. For him, nominating the tree for national recognition is “a means to an end,” he said.

Clearing for a new parking lot at Halpin Lane is anticipated to start some time this year to serve the guild, the Ridgefield Theater Barn and the Ridgefield Rail Trail, among other entities.

The project will enhance traffic flow and parking availability by creating a circular, two-way lot with 69 spaces. It will eliminate an existing pathway between the guild and the Norway maple to prevent people from parking or driving near it.

“My motivation was to save the tree, and it appears we’re going in that direction,” Kelly said. “With a story like this, all of Ridgefield is gonna want to save the tree. … It’s important for our heritage.”

Measuring up

Ridgefield’s Norway maple is designated as one of Connecticut’s notable trees. Ryan O’Leary, a commercial arborist representative at Bartlett Tree Experts in Stamford, estimates it could be between 150 and 200 years old.

To see if the tree was the largest Norway maple in the state, the pair enlisted the help of Frank Kaputa, co-chair of Connecticut’s Notable Trees Project. Kaputa is considered an “official measurer” by American Forests given his position, Kelly said.

The team visited the guild this past November to re-measure the tree. They were accompanied by Ridgefield photographer Carmen Martin, who Kelly had met during his initial visit months before. Martin was charged with photographing the tree “for dimension purposes,” she said.

The tree stands at 77 feet tall, 96 feet across and almost 16 feet in diameter, which equals 291 points by the notable trees project’s standards. Notable trees earn one point for each inch of circumference, one point for each foot of height and a quarter of a point for each foot of width, Kelly said.

The point total beats out a 93-foot-tall Norway maple in Suffield, which has 287 points to its trunk.

Putting down roots

Kelly expects to submit the nomination application to American Forests within the next few weeks. He said while Ridgefield’s Norway maple is indeed Connecticut’s largest, it could be the largest in the nation, too.

“There (was) a champion Norway maple (with) 288 points in Montana … but that tree is no longer listed” on American Forests’ website, he said. “If the tree is gone we would be the national champion all by ourselves.”

When the team surveyed the tree in the fall, Kelly was floored that its leaves were still green, as the leaves on surrounding trees were turning brown or had fallen down, he said.

“This tree has got a long life ahead of it,” he added, “and we need to do everything we can to make sure nothing intrudes on it.”

American Forests will release additions to its tree registry this November. For more information, visit www.americanforests.org.