If a tree falls in JP…


Two trees along the Arborway—including one that local open-space advocate and Arborway Coalition member Sarah Freeman had for six years personally cared for—were apparent victims of a hit-and-run car crash.

Another beloved tree was razed—this one intentionally—at the Wachusett Street St. Andrew’s Church site in Forest Hills Sept. 18. It was apparently chopped down in the course of renovation work being done by the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church (Bethel AME), which recently purchased the St. Andrew’s campus.
Sarah’s tree

Freeman told the Gazette she discovered her red oak had been hit on Sept. 27. Tire tracks leading up to the tree, a dislocated fender and broken glass suggested a car crash, she said.

The tree she had been caring for was left leaning at 45 degree angle, she said, and had apparently fallen into another red oak that was lying on the ground—completely severed from it base.

Freeman had been watering the now 10-foot-tall tree on the Arborway since 2002. “When I first started, the ground was so compacted that it could not absorb water,” she said. “We worked on the soil around the base and got it to the point where it could absorb 10 gallons of water.”

Trees do not normally need to be watered for so long, she said, but her tree was a “re-sprout.” When Freeman started caring for it, the top-growth was dead and new limbs were growing from its base, she said.

The section of the Arborway where the tree stood, at the intersection of Centre Street, is a notorious bare patch in what is otherwise a tree-lined boulevard, Freeman said.

“That section of the block is very bare,” she said. “You get beyond 42 [Arborway] and suddenly you are out in the open.”

Freeman is a well-known local activist, whose recent exploits include working with the state Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) to get a historic stonewall on the Jamaicaway restored. More recently, also in concert with DCR, she has helped shepherd a planning process to redesign the section of the Arborway around the Arnold Arboretum.

At her request, she said, arborists from the Arboretum and others came out and looked at the tree after the accident, Freeman said.

She held out hope until this week, she said, when Steve Burns from Arborway Tree Care pronounced it dead and brought the trunk back to Freeman’s house.

“She was hoping we could save it, but it was unsavable,” Burns said.

Freeman said losing the tree “knocked the wind” out of her. “It was like losing a member of the family,” she said.

DCR spokesperson Wendy Fox said the trees will be replaced. Freeman said she plans to have the trunk carved into a sculpture.

Freeman also called for traffic calming measures to be implemented at the Arborway/Centre Street intersection. That intersection is “high-risk for people, too,” she said.

Bethel AME tree

The large linden tree on the Wachusett Street side of the St. Andrews campus was chopped down Sept. 18, Wachusett Street resident Brittany Gravely told the Gazette.

Representatives from the church told her they needed to remove the tree in order to install a handicapped ramp and a patio, she said.

But the tree was “really far away from the door. I am not convinced it had to be cut down,” she said.

Gazette calls to Bethel AME project manager Mary Jennings were not returned.

Gravely said she and her roommate held a candlelight vigil to memorialize the tree the Sunday after it was chopped down.

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