By Julie McCay Turner
The Bedford Arbor Resources Committee (BARC) meeting on June 9 included a hastily-convened ‘Town Tree Meeting’ to discuss a plan that would remove more than three dozen trees around the John Glenn Middle School.
“An innovation proposed by the DPW and accepted by the Selectmen, ‘Town Tree Meetings’ are incorporated in Bedford’s recently adopted Tree Policy,” explained BARC chair Jaci Edwards. “They are held in order to receive citizen input about tree removals for town projects on town land.”
After nearly an hour of sharing concerns and ideas, a mutually-acceptable compromise was approved.
In the spirit of the new policy, there was an animated discussion among residents, the School Department’s architect Justin Humphries, Facilities Director Taissir Alani, and Tree Warden Dennis Freeman.
As originally presented, the two-part plan sought to increase safety along Railroad Avenue by better defining the road’s boundary along the wooded parking area in front of JGMS, and to facilitate construction for planned additions to the school along with upgrading the safety road around the school for better access by emergency vehicles.
Preserving the tree-rich area around the Railroad Avenue parking area was enthusiastically supported by an audience opposed to removing so many trees and low-growth shrubs.
Janet Powers, former member of both the Planning Board and BARC, spoke about the value of the small woodland surrounding the parking spaces. According to Powers, the small plot’s productive soil and network of established trees is a resource that can’t be replicated by simply adding newly-planted trees to lawns, fields, or earth that has been compacted by construction vehicles. “It’s a small pocket of woodland,” Powers declared, “but one of the few left [in Bedford]. ”
Additional concerns were raised about inconclusive projections offered for the total number of parking spaces that the school would need once its new additions are populated.
At Facilities Director Taissir Alani’s suggestion, the two projects were decoupled. The plan for the parking area along Railroad Avenue has been tabled for later consideration, and discussion about trees in the JGMS construction project moved forward.
Alani agreed to discuss recommendations for trees that will be planted after the construction is complete, possibly adding additional trees to provide shade between the playing fields. BARC’s motion to allow JGMS construction to begin was approved.
A properly advertised Town Tree Meeting during a posted BARC meeting to consider the Railroad Avenue parking area will be announced as soon as the Facilities Department, the School’s architect, and the Tree Warden have reassessed the proposal.