Family-run tree company saves live oaks in Newport News – Daily Press

Family-run tree company saves live oaks in Newport News – Daily Press

The passion for saving the live oaks along Warwick Boulevard runs through the branches of the Hubbard family tree.

In 2005, the line of trees, planted by the Mariners’ Museum and Park in Newport News, was slated to get the ax to create space to widen the road. John Hubbard, the founder of Hubbard Brothers’ Tree Care, was part of a public outcry to save the trees.

The push worked; most of the trees were saved — and Hubbard volunteered his services to maintain them. But as the years went by, and Hubbard could no longer work and became ill, the maintenance fell by the wayside and the trees started to grow fungus.

Hubbard died last year, but in his memory, his family is doing what he did more than 15 years ago: Saving the trees. Again.

“I drive by those trees almost every day, and it’s bothered me for a long time to see their decline,” Hubbard’s son, Brian Hubbard, said. “I just wanted a way to honor dad’s legacy.”

Brian, now the vice president of the family business, and brother Joel Hubbard, who manages it, volunteered their services to the museum to prune dead limbs from the 15 remaining live oak trees and develop a treatment plan for the fungus.

“We just thought we would do this first to help the Mariners’ Museum and community, and second, as kind of a tribute to my father to carry on what he started,” Brian Hubbard, 59, said.

Hubbard says his father instilled a strong work ethic in his children and a drive to serve the community. He remembers him as the kind of man who would give anyone the shirt off of his back.

“My father was really a special man,” Hubbard said.

The work is something that’s been needed for a while, but it went beyond the skills and manpower of the museum’s recently formed park department, which has six employees.

The work the Yorktown-based tree care company is donating is worth about $30,000, according to Graham King, the park’s arborist. It’s about a three-day process with work done by seven people.

Nine of the trees have already been pruned. The rest of the work is expected to be done in late April.

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Live oaks are shorter trees with long sprawling branches that make it look “like the tree is coming out forever,” King said.

“Some of the pruning cuts are larger and it may seem harsh, but it is overall for the greater good of the trees,” King said.

When Hubbard Brothers finishes his work, the park department will take over maintaining the trees by aerating and mulching. It also will have to prevent leaves from building up under the trees because that’s one of the places the fungus can grow.

The live oak trees were one of the museum founder Archer M. Huntington’s favorites. He picked them to line the park. The oaks along Warwick were planted in 1953, and if properly cared for, could live for hundreds of years, King said.

The care given to the live oaks from now on will be part of the park department’s larger forest management plan to focus on the health and sustainability of the native plant species in its nearly 300-acre forest.

“We’re dedicated to restoring the forest to what it naturally was prior to these invasive species and other things taking hold,” King said.

Jessica Nolte, 757-912-1675,