Cemetery tree removal creates controversy

FOREST HILLS—Several people have recently contacted the Gazette to complain about tree removal taking place at the Forest Hills Cemetery. George Milley, CEO of the cemetery, says that the tree-cutting is to remove insect-infected hemlock trees and to produce space for future plots.

Forest Hills is a historic garden cemetery founded 1848 and is on National Register of Historic Places. It is located at 95 Forest Hills Ave.

“As a frequent user of this nonprofit, semi-public space, I am saddened at the idea of trees much older than I am being destroyed in large numbers, especially in the context of all of the other intense development in the area,” said Robyn Ochs, a JP resident, in an email to the Gazette.

Another JP resident, who did not wish to be identified, called the removal “heartbreaking.” She called the cemetery a “historical treasure of Boston.”

Milley said the some of the removal was due to the woolly adelgid insect killing hemlock trees and that the changes are part of running a cemetery.

“I don’t think people fully understand what we do here,” said Milley. “We’re private. We have no public funding. We have to make decisions on good, sound business standards.”

He added that the cemetery must do what’s good for the community, proprietors and grave owners, as well as future proprietors and grave owners.

Milley spoke with the Gazette today while giving a tour of the cemetery. He showed several of the affected areas, including along Walk Hill Street and near the “Garden of Meditation.” Large amounts of trees where cleared in some sections while others left behind the healthy trees.

Milley contrasted the affected areas with past sections where cemetery removed trees and shrubbery and then landscaped.

“It is in our best interest to beautify the landscape,” said Milley.

Asked about the duration of the project, Milley said only the cemetery is always undergoing change and planning for the future.

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