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The DPW war on trees continues. Remember those 35 trees removed for sidewalk reconstruction on Adams Street?

There is now a similar request to remove “approximately 33 trees” on a stretch of Beacon Street in Waban for sidewalk reconstruction. One example is pictured at left; the rest of the offending trunk photos provided by DPW are in this document. Based on the photos, these appear to be a combination of before-the-fact and after-the-fact. In cases where new curbs and/or sidewalk has already been installed, the damage to the tree’s roots may already be fatal. (We have a long history of trees dying about five years after new sidewalks are installed.) At the other extreme, there are photos where one wonders why we’d even be spending money to fix not-particularly-bad sidewalks, or whether the homeowner has been asked if they’d be willing to have the new sidewalk curve into their front yard to preserve the tree (as has been done in some other locations).

DPW is also now requesting to remove an additional 12 trees on Adams Street — I haven’t  checked yet, but this is probably most if not all of the trees remaining between Watertown and Washington Streets. Addresses and trunk/sidewalk photos are here.

We might as well be letting Deb Crossley loose with a chainsaw, since DPW seems to be following her expressed desire to get rid of all the trees that are interfering with sidewalks.

Maybe it’s just me, but I think the pursuit of perfect curbs and perfect sidewalks at the expense of our already dwindling number of street trees is misguided. In aiming for perfect sidewalks, we’ll be losing the environmental benefits of storm water retention, and shade that reduces the heat island effect and makes walking in summer inviting instead of unpleasant.

Our street tree population is down to about 20,000, when it was once double that. Despite the combined efforts of the city and the Newton Tree Conservancy plantings, we’re still not close to replacing street trees at the rate we’re losing them from normal removals due to death, decline, and risk condition, plus casualties of storms and vehicle hits. DPW has not indicated that they will replace the caliper inches already removed for their projects to date. And even when they do “pay for” replacements, it’s still taxpayer money, and it’s unclear to me whether the replacement trees are really in addition to what Forestry would have planted anyway. And I don’t know how many people who voted for the override looking forward to new street and sidewalks, knew that some of that money was going to pay for cutting down healthy trees and then, maybe, partially, replacing them with new trees.

But wait, there’s more. There’s another five trees, including a 28″ diameter oak, DPW is requesting be removed for intersection “improvements” at Dedham/Carlson/Nahanton Streets. This gives me a sense of deja-vu, having seen  a mature linden and ash tree removed for the Comm Ave/Lexington Street reconfiguration (the success of which is I think yet to be determined).

And that’s still not all: 22″ and 24″ maples will on Parkview Ave will need to be removed in connection with the Cabot School project. At least with school projects, we’ve been getting all the caliper inches replaced.

And finally, another street tree removal request for a teardown-related driveway expansion on Harwich Road.

The complete list, with hearing dates where scheduled (dates by which any objections must be received in writing) is here. This will be a ‘new business’ item at tomorrow morning’s Urban Tree Commission meeting, Friday, May 19,  7:45AM in City Hall room 205.


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