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Municipality goes backward on cutting down climate protecting trees

By Charles Teague

Dear Councillors,

To remove a tree, permits from our Department of Public Works are already required for all homeowners except those who live on very large lots such as in parts of Avon Hill. Tree companies now use very large cranes or boom trucks which must be parked on the street and they block the sidewalk for safety. The tree companies spend $200 per day for a Crane and Boom Permit and more than $100 for a Sidewalk Obstruction Permit (see DPW Permit Fees). DPW also requires a traffic plan for blocking the street which typically requires paying for a police detail.

The loopholes that need to be fixed address the fact that none of these permits were required when corporations cut down fifty trees in ten days in North Cambridge this April because the trees were on their very large properties. A tree permit would have saved one of our public street trees that they cut down. In the past, WR Grace cut down trees in our North Cambridge Linear Park and also cut down a huge number of trees around Jerry’s Pit without the required wetland permit. Fawcett Oil cut down two very large trees in our Linear Park with DPW approval but without a public hearing. These are clear loopholes in our existing Tree Protection Ordinance and the City Council should simply fix it right away together with DPW holding hearings before cutting down park trees.

Any fix should be clear: that a tree cutting permit will be granted except for cutting down your neighbor’s trees or our public street or park trees, that the permit will be free, and that the tree company will get the permit at the same DPW counter as the other, already required, permits. This emergency fix will save a small number of trees but the data will help save our tree canopy.

Read Councillor Zondervan’s Op-Ed where he writes “But adding a step creates the opportunity to have a discussion with the property owner and potentially save trees from destruction. At the very least, through the permit application process we will get a much better handle on where and why trees are getting cut down.”

The council already declared a climate emergency years ago. The city’s own studies revealed the critical importance of the protection afforded to us by our tree canopy and it’s disturbing decrease. The tree canopy is like the radiator of your car, you cannot keep making it smaller.

Charles Teague


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