Neighbors happy about wall, worried about trees

Sandra Storey

PONDSIDE—Plans to restore a crumbling wall on a traffic island between the Arborway and Pond Street by June 30 met with resounding approval at a meeting May 31 at Curtis Hall.

Plans for tree removal and planting were greeted with some concerns and a few objections.

About 10 interested residents were on hand to hear a detailed presentation from the state’s Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), which has responsibility for the care of the land.

Restoration of the wall, which is across from intersections with Orchard Street and Dunster Road and was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted as part of the Emerald Necklace, will cost about $30,000, Margie Lynch of DCR said.

The community, led by Arborway resident Sarah Freeman, raised half of the money, which was matched by the state Executive Office of Environmental Affairs, Office of Public Private Partnerships.

“We are thrilled by the passion of you all,” Lynch said, adding that projects languishing at the bottom of to-do lists at DCR tend to “pop to the top” when communities raise funds for them.

Gerry Wright of the Jamaica Pond Project said that what Freeman was able to do, going door-to-door and business-to-business to ask for donations, is “an incredible story.”

Freeman credited the organizations that worked together on the restoration effort, including the Arborway Coalition, Jamaica Hills Association, Jamaica Pond Association, Emerald Necklace Conservancy and the New Boston Fund.

Josh Kane of DCR described the work on the wall set to begin very soon. Saying the wall has been ”slowly deteriorating because of cars and trees,” he said that after the trees that interrupt its flow are removed, a contractor will come back and repair and repoint the wall so it is “100 percent back to original condition.” He said even the mortar will match the color and texture of the original wall.

Shaun Provencher, a JP resident and preservation planner for DCR, said trees near the wall include ash, maples, oaks and the invasive tree of heaven, many of which line the wall in one place. He said the damaging roots run alongside the wall, which goes 2-3 feet underground. “None are heritage trees,” he said. “None are historic.” Removing all the trees along Pond Street, half of which are invasive, will also improve public safety, he said.

In their place, eleven dogwood trees will be planted on the Pond Street, with bladders attached to make them easy to water. DCR is paying for the trees and landscaping.

Provencher said that decisions about what trees will be planted on the rest of the island had not been made yet and planting would probably happen next year. He explained that it is a DCR “policy decision” because Olmsted had recommended tulip and cucumber trees, but in 1898 an official named Pettigrew “trumped Olmsted” and decided to plant red oaks along the corridor. Red oaks, he and others said, do not fare well in that environment now.

Arborway resident Sam Sherwood worried, with others in the room, that, “Too many trees are planted [by government] that aren’t properly maintained afterwards. We need a guarantee that basic maintenance will be performed.”

Provencher said that Matt Thurlow, who is in charge of maintaining DCR trees, could not attend the meeting.

“I also want assurance that there will be open lines of communication between the community and DCR about maintenance,” Sherwood said. “We have had experience in the past with roadblocks.”

Wright said, since the type of trees to plant on the Arborway side were considered to be a policy decision, “I hope the community could be involved in forming that policy.”

Provencher and Lynch said they would make sure that happened. “This wall shows up a lot in Olmsted plans, Pondside resident John Papson said. They are works of art and meant to stand alone. I agree. The trees should come down.” He added his agreement with Sherwood that the new trees “need to be maintained.”

John Iappini of Pondside defended one existing tree at the end of Orchard Street. He pointed to in a photo in DCR’s PowerPoint presentation. That tree of heaven against the wall has four small trunks rather than one larger one. “It screens sound and traffic,” he said. “It would be an insurance policy in case the new trees don’t succeed.”

“That tree is doing damage to the wall,” Provencher said. “It would undo the other work.”

“A canopy of dogwood would be a better buffer,” Kane said.

Rosalie Phillips, whose house is on Orchard Street, said she likes the buffer the multi-trunk tree of heaven now provides. She said she wants to know “who is maintaining the trees and how. I have heard no plan tonight beyond June 30.”

“Every tree there is a ‘volunteer,’” Sherwood said.

“If it’s invasive, why didn’t you just take it out?” Iappini wondered about the tree. “Why are you taking it down now? What’s wrong with invasives?”

Nearby resident Peter Shapiro suggested that all groups get their own experts to “investigate [the tree removal decision] tree by tree.”

At the end of the meeting, Lynch said her to-do list showed DCR needs to tell the community the management and maintenance plan as well as make sure neighbors are informed if and when any streets have to be closed for the work, probably as trees are being removed.

Arboretum walls

In other wall news, the Arboretum Park Conservancy (APC) this week was awarded a $15,000 city Small Changes grant to repair historic puddingstone walls along the South Street side of Arnold Arboretum’s Bussey Brook Meadow area. The arboretum’s walls are crumbling in many places. The APC is a private group that successfully lobbied for the addition of the meadow area to the arboretum in 1996.

John Ruch contributed to this article.

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