The MBTA cleared the proposed Southwest Corridor Park (SWCP) Greenway Extension of nearly all its trees last month, without input from neighbors working to officially add that area to the SWCP.
The MBTA told the Gazette that the clear-cutting was necessary to survey the land for park expansion.
Taking advantage of two major developments on the 3500-3600 blocks of Washington Street, members of the Stonybrook Neighborhood Association (SNA) have been working for three years on incorporating the currently unused, MBTA-owned quarter mile of land between Forest Hills and McBride Street into the SWCP. They hope to include walking paths, an urban wild, community gardens and other amenities.
But the week of Dec. 16, the MBTA cleared the area of nearly every tree growing with no notice or input from any community organizations.
According to SNA member Frederick Vetterlein, who has been involved with the project since its inception, the MBTA said the clearing was to allow for cable work.
The MBTA cleared probably 50 to 60 trees, some 6 to 8 inches in diameter, “far more than would be necessary to get move trucks around the area. Nearly all the trees were cleared along the track side of the parcel,” Vetterlein told the Gazette this week.
MBTA spokesperson Joe Pesaturo told the Gazette that the tree clearings were necessary to allow for maintenance and land surveying purposes. The land survey was necessary partially “as part of the discussions to add this area to the SWCP,” Pesaturo said.
Pesaturo also said that the MBTA consulted with the state Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), who would take over the care of the land once it’s part of the SWCP, before clearing it.
DCR press secretary Bill Hickey told the Gazette that DCR and the MBTA have had discussions on “having the vegetation brought down to a mowable grade and then adjusting the care and control agreement with the T to include mowing and taking care of that parcel of land.”
According to Vetterlein, when the SWCP was created 25 years ago, effort went into saving some of the trees.
“There are several groups of older trees between the Stony Brook and Forest Hills stations that remain from before Orange Line construction. Though they planted dozens of varieties of new shrubs and trees, the older trees provided a wooded background to the new landscaping,” he said.
Vetterlein said that an MBTA employee told him that the MBTA had consulted with DCR and that “they didn’t express reservations about clearing the trees.”
Neither agency contacted the SNA about the plan to cut down the trees, Vetterlein said. SWCP Parkland Management Advisory Committee (PMAC) President Janet Hunkel also told the Gazette that her organization was also not consulted.
Vetterlein previously told the Gazette that the greatest challenge to continuing with the project is coordination between agencies.
“It’s uncoordinated. Everyone is doing a different thing,” Vetterlein said last month.