Letter to the Editor: Keeping our Scenic Roads Safe and our Citizens Informed: Bedford Can Do both. Why Didn’t It?

January 4, 2021

Submitted by Jacqueline Edwards, chair of BARC

Removing 31 trees – so many of them large, roadside trees—on an historic Scenic Road—is important. It is consequential: to the character of the road, to climate change, to the speed of passing cars, to the many other environmental functions trees perform, even to property values. This substantial project should have a review that is transparent, inclusive, and thorough. It has not, to date. Unless the Planning Board postpones the Hearing scheduled for January 12 (details below), or citizens object at the Hearing, it will not.

Some of the trees are old and sick, have lived their useful lives, and become hazards. Some should be removed so they don’t come down in a storm and leave our residents cold and in the dark during a winter storm. Some might just need to be pruned. Much of this can be a judgment call.

But Bedford’s residents have not been offered the opportunity for an adequate review process for a project that appears to have been in the works for at least a year. That is unless you think that a legal notice in the Bedford Minuteman during the Christmas-New Year holiday week and another such this week represents a real effort to inform the community. What’s more, I’m the chair of the Arbor Resource Committee (BARC), and I didn’t hear about this project until a resident asked me about it last week. Please note, this letter represents my opinion and mine only.

The thing is, including the community in the process not only should be done, it can be done. I know this because it has been done, and done to good effect.

When there was a similar, larger project to remove about 100 trees from around town just a few years ago, residents were given high-visibility notice and the opportunity to look at the trees themselves. Some asked for pruning rather than removal. One asked for an additional tree to be removed. The process did take more time, but safe changes were made. Residents knew they’d been heard and were satisfied. The arborists from Eversource said they thought the process turned out well.

Rather than include our voices, our town has chosen to circumvent them to the extent the law and loopholes allow.

The Planning Board should postpone their Hearing of this potentially transformative project until the weather allows residents adequate time to visit and assess the affected trees. The project does not include trees previously removed on Page and Shawsheen Roads:

Eversource has identified 30 trees on Page Road that it wants to cut down. Of those, the Tree Warden has identified 3 that he believes are risks; they are at  #6, 16, and 26 Page Road. They will be removed

  • Twenty-seven (27) trees are on Page Road at # 12, 14, 18, 20, 24, 28, 32, 36, 40, 42, 44, 97, 112, and 118. They are oaks, maples, ash, elm, hickory, and pine
  • Twenty-two (22) are substantial trees, ranging from 6” to over 36+” and nine (9) are only 1.5”  – 6”  in diameter breast height (DBH).
  • A healthy pine at 168 Springs Road in “close proximity to wires,” is included in the request for removal

The Planning Board Scenic Road Hearing will take place at 7 pm on Tuesday, January 12, 2021. Remote participation—https://zoom.us/j/98170099341?pwd=RUlsZDluc1QrKzVPY09CNU5wakF1Zz09 
ID# 981 7009 9341 — Password 812379

Thank you for your time and attention.

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Linda Kovitch
January 10, 2021 8:09 pm

Just because a tree goes over the road does not mean it needs to be removed. Careful and thoughtful pruning is an option. Trees are an incredibly valuable resource. We went thru this here on North Road a few years ago where at least 35 trees were removed. The removal has completely altered the character of the road. Now people speed even faster down this two lane road with no shoulder on one side and minimal shoulder on the other side. Trees contribute to their environment by providing oxygen, improving air quality, climate amelioration, conserving water, preserving soil, and supporting wildlife. During the process of photosynthesis, trees take in carbon dioxide and produce the oxygen we breathe. Trees are an important part of every community. Our streets, parks, playgrounds and backyards are lined with trees that create a peaceful, aesthetically pleasing environment. Trees increase our quality of life by bringing natural elements and wildlife habitats into urban settings. We gather under the cool shade they provide during outdoor activities with family and friends. Many neighborhoods are also the home of very old trees that serve as historic landmarks and a great source of town pride.
Using trees in cities to deflect the sunlight reduces the heat island effect caused by pavement and commercial buildings. Trees control climate by moderating the effects of the sun, rain and wind. Leaves absorb and filter the sun’s radiant energy, keeping things cool in summer. Trees also preserve warmth by providing a screen from harsh wind. In addition to influencing wind speed and direction, they shield us from the downfall of rain, sleet and hail. Trees also lower the air temperature and reduce the heat intensity of the greenhouse effect by maintaining low levels of carbon dioxide. Individual trees and shrubs have value and contribute to savings, but it is the collective influence of a well-maintained landscape that makes a real economic impact and has the greatest effect on property value. Direct economic benefits come from a savings in energy costs. Cooling costs are reduced in a tree-shaded home, and heating costs lowered when a tree serves as a windbreak. According to the USDA Forest Service, “Trees properly placed around buildings can reduce air conditioning needs by 30% and save 20-50 percent in energy used for heating.” Property values of homes with well-maintained landscapes are up to 20% higher than others. 98% of realtors believe that mature trees have a “strong or moderate impact” on the salability of homes listed for over $250,000 (83% believe the same for homes listed under $150,000).– American Forests, Arbor National Mortgage
. Forests provide natural filtration and storage systems that process nearly two-thirds of the water supply in the United States. When you drink a glass of tap water in a New York City restaurant, you’re drinking water that was filtered largely by the forests of upstate New York. The forests do such a good job that the city only needs to do a minimum of additional filtering. Feeling down? Take a walk in the woods. Several studies have found that access to nature yields better cognitive functioning, more self-discipline, and greater mental health overall. One study even found that hospital patients who can see trees out their windows are hospitalized 8 percent fewer days than their counterparts. Neighborhoods with abundant trees have significantly fewer crimes than those without. Researchers think that this is because green spaces have a calming effect and encourage people to spend more with their neighbors outdoors, bolstering community trust. Feeling down? Take a walk in the woods. Several studies have found that access to nature yields better cognitive functioning, more self-discipline, and greater mental health overall. One study even found that hospital patients who can see trees out their windows are hospitalized 8 percent fewer days than their counterparts. I hope that these tree facts will give you pause before you sign on to take it down unless there is a really good reason to do so. The town does offer some replacement trees. Note I lost an 80 y/o Silver Maple and I got a 3 inch diameter replacement tree…….. Not really anywhere close to an equitable replacement as far as I’m concerned.

January 8, 2021 2:48 pm

I agree with the thoughtful Letter to the Editor. Careful consideration of every tree should be documented. The environmental and social benefits of trees are countless and once a tree is removed, it takes years for another to take its place. Let us keep Bedford beautiful.

Diane Cohen
January 5, 2021 3:04 pm

There are a few on South Road that go over the road and should be removed. Last year one of those limbs took out a parked minivan just as a car was driving by.

Thank you.

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