The Nun's Walk, which is along Kenwood Road in Grosse Pointe Farms, is made of Silver Maples.
The Silver Maple, or Acer Saccharinum, is one of the first trees to flower in North America, with blooms arriving as early as February.
According to the USDA Forest Service, reports that the Silver Maple has longevity. "Growth is rapid in both pure and mixed stands and the tree may live 130 years or more."
They were originally planted on land belonging to the Convent of the Sacred Heart which was built in 1885. This is now the 's oldest building.
No one knows the precise date that the trees were planted, but they were likely planted around the turn of the century. The story that has been passed down through generations of Grosse Pointers is that the double row of Silver Maples were planted as a pathway and the Nuns would take leisurely walks through their path as a respite during sunny afternoons.
Now approximately 110 years old, in the next two decades the Silver Maples will near the maximum age for type.
Due to storms and lightening strikes, and of course, old age, some of these treess have come down throughout the years. Because the Nun's Walk is now on private property, it is up to the owners of the homes on Kenwood Road to replace the trees as they die.
Matt Tepper, Assistant City Manager of explained that the city assists with the trees by providing technical support to owners, but the city does not provide any financial supprt. The best way to keep these maples strong is to fill them with foam.
That is how we keep the older ones alive... they are filled with foam. That is why they are not dying off at 60 or 70 or 80 years old," said Tepper, who continued to explain that this foam is necessary because the trees, although still alive, wil rot out from the inside.
Then they have hollow spots and become more bittle. "There is a technique of filling them to make them more solid and live longer. We (the city of Grosse Pointe Farms) have been helping them for a long time. We will consult with the home owners."
When asked about whther or not the city encourages homeowners to replace the trees, Tepper indicated that the city cannot mandate or force homeowners to replace the trees. "we hope that they will replace them." Tepper said as he acknowledged the importance of the landmark. "the nuns walk is atrademark of Grosse Pointe Farms... everyone knows about it."
I've noticed myself that some homeowners have replaced their fallen maples, others have not. But the majority of the Nun's Walk is alive and well, thanks to the care of the owners who are graced with the presence of these ancient towering maples in their perfect double rows.
Sometimes I wonder what life was like--not just in Grosse Pointe but in the United States--at the time when those trees were planted. I think the trees hold such a special place in the hearts of Pointers young and old because they capture the imagination. They link us to our past, and serve as a reminder that although so much has changed in the last century, these noble sturdy trees are provide a permanence, and ultimately, a sense of comfort.
Now we all need to hope that they will stay healthy for as long as they possibly can, and that when the time comes, the homeowners who act as stewards of these magestic maples will make the choice to replace them so that another century of Pointers can fall in love with the Nun's Walk.