Letter to the Editor: Warrant Article 31 ~ Add BARC, the Bedford Arbor Resources Committee, to the Town’s List of Official By-Law Committees

May 11, 2021

Submitted by Jacqueline Edwards

Mass General Law Chapter 87, commonly known as The Shade Tree Act, regulates all roadside trees (that is, trees in the right-of-way, both broadleaf, and evergreen) in the Commonwealth. Early versions were first passed in the 1890s, indicating a long-standing recognition that roadside trees have such a valuable role in the life of a community that they should be publicly owned and protected.

By 1913, the language of Chapter 87 was mostly settled, and it “matched the knowledge and methods of doing business at the time.” While our community landscape and tree science have changed dramatically in the past century, the law has only had minor revisions. Click this link to read the  Massachusetts Tree Wardens and Foresters Assn’s proposed revisions. The practical effect is that the Tree Warden’s M.G.L. Ch. 87 Shade Tree Hearings, the process required for removing or substantially pruning roadside and town trees, are rigid events that minimize discussion and consensus-building.

In order to give residents a more robust voice in the development of their town, the Selectmen requested that the DPW and Arbor Resources Committee (BARC) work together to develop a comprehensive Tree Policy that encourages transparency, community input, and consensus-building. The mechanism the policy came up with attempts to achieve consensus by holding well-advertised, open public discussion before the formal Ch. 87 process begins, at either an Optional Tree Warden/BARC Meeting or a Town Tree Meeting, both held during a regular BARC meeting. Click this link to read about the Ch. 87 process.

In 2018, the Selectmen adopted this new Tree Policy, including BARC as an integral part of an open, orderly, and transparent governmental process that is used on a continual basis. Click this link to read Article 31 on page 59 in Bedford’s 2021 Annual Town Meeting Warrant

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Please support Article 31, General Bylaw-Proposed New Article, Bedford Arbor Resources Committee, at Annual Town Meeting, to codify its authority, membership, purpose, and responsibilities.

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