It was mentioned that I ran for the position of Tree Warden in 2012, and I was asked by current residents to advise on the current Green Street tree controversy. I call Newport home now, but know enough history and tree law to submit three major points that I ask residents to consider seriously:
1. Fairhaven should be better versed in the law. The state mandates that each municipality has a Tree Warden position who is charged with the care, planting, and being the responsible party to hold public hearings regarding public tree removal. Town Counsel Thomas Crotty overlooked this in his letter to Town Administer Mark Rees. M.G.L. Chapter 87, Section 3 which precedes Section 5, is the clause that has conditions that must be met before Section 5 can be invoked. Section 3 says that a public hearing must be advertised strictly by a designated process UNLESS Section 5 is invoked because a tree is determined to be a hazard to public safety or when the highway is to be widened.
The Town and the engineers say the hazard will come AFTER the construction; section 3 only deals with current risk. The obsession with tree roots causing lifts in the sidewalk is overblown since people can just as easily trip over a curb, over a utility access cover, over a child’s toy left lying out, and more. Frankly, the danger here is not the external condition but the negligence of the walker who isn’t paying any attention. Mr. Crotty is not right 100% of the time; no one can be. Chapter 87 has been in existence over 100 years so it isn’t like it has never been interpreted before — check out what other towns and cities do in this case.
2. Fairhaven should expect its Tree Warden to know the laws. The Warden should also know basic tree structure and biology, know how to use resources, know how to work with the public and the other town departments. With a current budget of $54,000+, the [Fairhaven] Tree Warden should offer transparency on what decisions are being made with the taxpayers’ money. So, Fairhaven taxpayers, I would like to think you expect better from the person you elected to this position.
The position currently has an annual salary of $6,600+. Still, don’t you expect someone paid with tax money to be actively engaged in these processes instead of sitting silently by at meetings? He has a budget for Purchase of Services amounting $11,500, and another line item for tree worker salaries totaling to over $31,000. Apart from a few thousand dollars allocated for gasoline, there isn’t a lot more. Still, Fairhaven has a well-funded Tree Department — I found that out in 2012 when I spoke to other tree wardens from the Massachusetts Tree Wardens and Foresters Association (http://masstreewardens. org/). Other money can be had through grants via the state (http://bit.ly/ urbanforestgrants) and Arbor Day Foundation (https://www.arborday. org/programs/treecityusa/).
A lot is possible with the right talent.
The Tree Warden should be getting trained tree maintenance workers out to make certain the trees are pruned correctly and on a regular basis. Many of the trees have thick canopies that block out sunlight and air that is needed to keep the trees healthy as well as being less top-heavy in high winds. It’s not just the roots that cause problems. I personally only see tree crews out working when a tree is to be cut down. I repeat, what are you expecting for your tax dollars?
3. Fairhaven does not have to choose between roads and trees. As I said at the forum on 7/26, there is a large amount of research done and solutions achieved on enhancing the urban streetscape with better know-how on planting, placement, and technology that enables both people and trees to benefit.
Cornell University’s solution, known as CU-Soil™ or “structured soil” is a formula that meets and exceeds what civil engineers call the Standard Proctor Density (must be 95% or higher) while still creating a healthy environment for tree roots. Another technology, Silva Cells, meet this same standard and enable the roots access to more soil, water and air so they grow the way they are meant to be. They cost more than the plans GCG Inc. has for Fairhaven, but if the trees live longer, siphon away more rainwater (over 25 times more), and filter out pollutants that go into your yard, isn’t that worth a bit extra?
Yes, maneuvering a wheelchair on some streets is very difficult, like on a portion of Green Street. I have tried this with a friend at Our Lady’s Haven who needs a wheelchair. However, take away the large shade trees and their calming, cooling impact and I can honestly say using a wheelchair to go very far on Fairhaven streets will be joyless and hot, miserable work.
Even the Engineering team in Concord Massachusetts observes this fact with their Standard Operating Procedures (http://www. concordma.gov/pages/ConcordMA_ Engineering/PublicShadeTrees.pdf)
Why would you think Fairhaven deserves less than Concord? This town is a gem, too.
Why not work on comprehensive planning to create a rich, green environment? It is going to take a determined citizenry to move the local officials to do this, in my opinion.
I’ll leave with one more thought: What is one of the things you may notice when you are in a neighborhood that feels impoverished, unpleasant, and degraded? It was a long practice in so-called urban renewal to create treeless ghettos that often trapped the poor, while the very wealthy could resist this fate of losing their lovely greenery to progress and keep their part of town lovely and pleasing. I say, you don’t have to be a millionaire to live where you feel like a millionaire, if you’re willing to fight for the town’s trees.
Carol Murchie, Newport RI
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