At the end of June signs went up on more than a dozen shade trees on Green Street in Fairhaven, between South Street and Washington Street.
A closer look revealed painted white dots at the base of the trunks of 17 of the 25 trees on those three blocks of Green Street. These 17 trees are scheduled to be removed in early August because of a road repair project that the town has organized with money from the State.
The argument for removing them is that their roots will be compromised, they might later fall down, and they are too big to allow for new uniform sidewalk installation.
On March 15th the BPW held a “Neighborhood Forum” at the Town Hall and invited residents of those three blocks of Green Street to attend to learn about the project. Although it was taped and available to watch through the town government public access website*, this was not advertised as a public hearing, no minutes are available, and it was under the radar for most of us. The plan was presented with no options for change by those whom we have elected to protect our interests.
Shade trees provide real benefits to the neighborhood. They absorb noise, block wind, clean the air, keep the area cooler in the summer and are lovely to look at.
In the Center we keep losing trees one or two at a time because of old age, disease or damage — four on two blocks of Union Street, three on one block of Church Street, six on two blocks of Laurel Street, several on Center Street, Green Street and Chestnut Street Most of them have not been replaced.
To purposely cut down most of the mature healthy trees on this section of Green Street is an action that is not well thought out and shocking to the residents. They were told at the forum in March that each tree cut down would be replaced by two new ones. But the Town’s track record for replacing trees is not a good one and most of the new ones we see planted around town are small ornamental trees. They struggle to survive and will never provide the shade and majesty of the maples and other trees we have now.
A public hearing has been requested by several residents after learning of the impending tree removal. Although public hearings were held for the Spring Street and Fort Street road projects in 2012, this request has been refused as of the July 11th Selectmen’s meeting. The Board of Public Works is willing to have another forum on July 26th at 6:30pm at the Town Hall, which all residents interested in preserving the beauty of Fairhaven Center should attend.
There are ways to modify the project to preserve some or all of the tagged trees. The property owners on Fort Street managed to save eight of 13 healthy tagged trees before the road repair done on the southern part of Fort Street in 2012 by eliminating a planned new section of sidewalk on one side of the street. Custom sidewalks like those on the northern part of Fort Street can be constructed to accommodate the older tree trunks. Or just redo the sidewalk on the west side of the streets where only four trees are tagged for removal. There are options.
Once these trees are cut down, they are gone forever and the neighborhood landscape is permanently changed. And this is only a beginning phase of the road project that will run the entire length of Green Street in the coming years. Every mature shade tree from Washington Street to Fort Phoenix is in danger of being cut down.
Barbara Lorentzen, Fairhaven
*Editor’s Note: Chapter 87, Section 3 of Mass. General Laws states that a legal notice must run in a newspaper and a public hearing must be held to cut shade trees. The Tree Warden has not responded to two email requests by the Neighb News. However, Town Administrator Mark Rees forwarded a letter from Town Counsel Thomas Crotty explaining that this project is exempt from the Tree Warden legal notice requirement. The DPW notice about the road project and Mr. Crotty’s letter are available on our website: www.NeighbNews.com (click on archives, then 2016, for current issue).