Members of the Bedford Arbor Resources Committee have been asking that question, particularly after efforts fell short to save three venerable trees from a planned sidewalk on North and Chelmsford Roads.
And at BARC’s March 24 meeting, the director of the Public Works Department signed on to the concept.
“I am coming around to this committee’s idea of an overall tree master plan, identifying areas where we would like to plant trees so we can plan for years ahead,” said David Manugian. That way trees could get priority over a proposed sidewalk, he acknowledged.
Such a “planning document helps this committee on an even playing field,” Manugian said. “I think there are opportunities moving forward.”
“There are as many people who are passionate about trees as there are about these other things,” said longtime BARC member Jacqueline Edwards.
Dan Churella, who chairs BARC, commented that trees need to be a factor in any cost-benefit analysis for a project like the North Road intersection design, bike lane, and sidewalk. “Projects get input from bike and pedestrian people because they have master plans, but tree people don’t get included,” he lamented.
BARC has no issues with redesigning the intersection or adding the bike lane, even at the cost of some trees, he said. But the sidewalk along Chelmsford Road, from North Road to the Billerica line, “basically goes nowhere. It is not a critical link on the sidewalk network around town,” serving only a few houses.
“However, that little piece of the project requires the loss of five of the biggest trees of the project,” he continued. “So the cost-benefit of that little piece does not work. But I didn’t realize that until at the end. We should have been looking at this from the beginning.”
Churella asked Manugian if there is any way to save the “monster tree” outside 21 Chelmsford Road, which he noted seems to be five feet from the edge of the street. “We will take a look and see what we can do,” Manugian replied, noting that Jeanette Rebecchi, the DPW’s transportation program manager, will approach the adjacent landowner about a possible easement so the sidewalk could bypass the tree.
In answer to a question, Manugian said it is hoped that construction can start in the summer, though he doesn’t have a timetable yet on removing the trees.
Mike Rosenberg can be reached at [email protected], or 781-983-1763