A 77-foot-tall tree in Ridgefield is one of the largest Norway maples in the nation, expert says

Photo of Sandra Diamond Fox

RIDGEFIELD — A Norway Maple tree is considered one of the largest in the nation —  and local officials want to protect it as much as possible.

A Norway maple located behind the Ridgefield Guild of Artists on Halpin Lane was designated the state champion last year, and is believed to be one of the biggest trees in the country, behind a Norway Maple in New Jersey.

Trees are measured using a point system that accounts for a combination of height, trunk circumference and branch spread, said Frank Kaputa, an official state tree measurer.

Ridgefield's Norway maple was measured at 291 points — it's 77 feet tall, with a trunk circumference of 190 inches and an average branch spread of 96 feet. 

Previously, a tree in Suffield was state champion and a tree in Montana was national champion. Suffield's tree is measured at 287 points, while the Montana tree is 288 points. 

The Suffield tree, which was previously the state champion at 303 points, dropped in points to 287, due to "decline," Kaputa said.   

"I went down (to Suffield) last year and I remeasured it," said Kaputa, a Glastonbury resident. Kaputa is the official measurer of the Connecticut Notable Trees Project. Kaputa said he has been involved with the measuring of trees for about 20 years. Kaputa estimates Ridgefield's Norway maple to be over 100 years old.  

The Montana tree was listed on  American Forests, the National Tree Registry, while the Suffield tree is listed on Connecticut Notable Trees Project, a state registry. American Forests has not kept records of champion trees since 2021, but the Ridgefield tree ranks higher than the trees listed in that year, Kaputa said. 

Hearst Connecticut Media learned a Norway Maple in Stanhope, N.J. ranks larger than the Ridgefield tree. The New Jersey Norway Maple has 323 points, a circumference of 194 inches, a height of 103 feet, and a crown of 102 feet.  It is ranked as state champion by the NJ Big & Heritage Tree Dept. of the New Jersey Forest Service within the Department of Environmental Protection.

Protecting the tree

The town said it will be protecting its champion Norway maple because cars park too close to the Norway maple.

Pound Ridge, N.Y. resident John Kelly, a tree enthusiast who spotted the Norway maple while viewing artwork at the Guild and then researched its size, said he's concerned cars are damaging the soil. 

"Norway maples are shallow-rooted. Most of the roots are within 18 inches of the surface. So every time a car parks (near the maple), the car compacts the soil even further. The tree gets its water and its nutrients from that soil," he said, adding that there's gravel and broken pieces of asphalt in the soil by the tree. 

Ridgefield First Selectman Rudy Marconi agreed.

"Technically, with any tree, you should not disturb the soil within the dripline," or the area directly located under the outer circumference of the tree branches, Marconi said. "Cars park right near the tree and what you don't want to do is disrupt the root structure."

While the town had planned to put in a new parking lot at Halpin Lane, which would help preserve the tree, it was ever done.

"That master plan was never implemented," Marconi said, due to lack of funds.

"We would still like to do it. We have applied for grants and we'll probably do so in the near future next year," he said.

Prior to paving, the town would install catch basins to collect water and lay down topsoil in the area to protect the tree, he said. 

He said he still hopes to eventually pave the front of the Guild of Artists to the volunteer fire department building. 

However, the town is preparing to rope the area off, put in curbs and plant grass.

"That will discontinue the travel area in close proximity to the tree," Marconi said.

The town will perform the work next month, when it is warmer, he said.  

'A real honor'

It's a "real honor" for a town to have a champion tree, and the town should do everything in its means to protect it, Kaputa said.

"You can take pride in this," he said. "Whether it's in the woods or on their front lawn, people should really take a lot of pride in that."

Rigdgefield's Norway maple is "beautiful," Kaputa added. 

"It's a full a tree with a big trunk and large branches spreading out," he said, "and it should be protected. You've got something special in town."

Correction: An original version of this article incorrectly reported the Ridgefield Norway Maple tree's national ranking. Ridgefield's Norway Maple ranks as the largest tree in Connecticut, but is smaller than a Norway Maple in Stanhope, N.J.