Why we need a citywide tree ordinance

Chainsaws buzzed for weeks. Upon walking to Harvest Co-op on Aug. 24, the origin of the noise was revealed. Half-century-old shade trees, mostly maples, at 22-24 Custer Street still stood tall, but were missing their lush green tops [JP Gazette, Sept. 7]. What was once an integral part of the urban canopy between Custer and St. Joseph streets was reduced to bare tree trunks due to a coming condominium development.

Neighbors and I watched the workers cut the towering trees on the back lot. Branch by branch fell with loud thuds that reverberated through the soles of our feet. Wood chips and upturned dirt thickened the air. The piercing crunching and grinding of the saw on those magnificent trees haunts me.

JP Trees, a grassroots community group, has begun working towards creating a citywide tree ordinance that would apply to private property, similar to ordinances that already exist in Brookline and Cambridge. Jim Hunt, chief of environment and energy for the Mayor’s Office, has been receptive to the idea of a Boston-wide tree policy. Nonetheless, Mayor Thomas Menino needs to hear that this is a priority for a large part of his constituency.

Though the mayor announced in April that Boston will “Grow Greener” with 100,000 additional trees, it is difficult to envision progress when developers in our own neighborhood are continuously clear-cutting trees, including such examples as Grotto Glen Road, 33 Bynner St. and Chestnut Avenue. There are also homeowners who have taken it upon themselves to remove large trees from their yards, most notably on street corners where shade is crucial. Two of these incidents occurred on Goldsmith Street and Paul Gore Street.

At least seven grand trees were cut down at 22-24 Custer St. Two more maples and one smaller evergreen are following suit. Even though the foundation was marked to stand 10 feet from most of the trees, the new owners did not spare them.

This is an example of where a citywide tree protection policy would come into play. It is essential that shade trees on private property are protected from development, particularly when the diameters of the trunks are greater than our arms can wrap around. These larger trees play a key role in preserving urban forests that help maintain a community’s health, safety and charm.

Melissa Moore
Co-coordinator of JP Trees
Jamaica Plain

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