Residents speak out against proposed removal of 164 trees in Wendell

  • An arborist with National Grid has proposed removing 164 trees along Wendell Depot, Lockes Village and Locke Hill roads in Wendell. The arborist, Ryan Kress, also said all of the sugar maples on the south common are dying. STAFF PHOTO/SHELBY BROCK

  • An arborist with National Grid has proposed removing 164 dead, dying or structurally unsound trees that are located along Wendell Depot, Lockes Village and Locke Hill roads in Wendell. A tree on the town common is pictured. STAFF PHOTO/SHELBY BROCK

  • An arborist with National Grid has proposed removing 164 dead, dying or structurally unsound trees that are located along Wendell Depot, Lockes Village and Locke Hill roads in Wendell. A tree across from the Wendell Free Public Library is pictured. STAFF PHOTO/SHELBY BROCK

  • An arborist with National Grid has proposed removing 164 dead, dying or structurally unsound trees that are located along Wendell Depot, Lockes Village and Locke Hill roads in Wendell. A pair of trees on the town common are pictured. STAFF PHOTO/SHELBY BROCK

  • An arborist with National Grid has proposed removing 164 dead, dying or structurally unsound trees that are located along Wendell Depot, Lockes Village and Locke Hill roads in Wendell. A pair of trees on the town common are pictured. STAFF PHOTO/SHELBY BROCK

Staff Writer
Published: 9/30/2022 11:51:22 AM
Modified: 9/30/2022 11:47:10 AM

WENDELL — Some residents voiced disapproval Tuesday evening during a public hearing regarding National Grid’s application to remove what a company arborist identified as 164 dead, dying or structurally unsound trees along Wendell Depot, Lockes Village and Locke Hill roads.

The hearing became contentious when concerned residents clashed with arborist Ryan Kress, objecting to the criteria he used to determine which trees got tagged and accusing National Grid of misidentifying trees. Tree Warden Cliff Dornbusch moderated discussion between Kress and those in attendance either in person at the Town Offices or via Zoom. There are three trees Kress recommends trimming in addition to the 164 set for the chopping block as part of National Grid’s Hazard Tree Mitigation Program, which would cost the town no money.

Prudence Smith, attending remotely, said she is uncomfortable with what she characterized as scant accessibility of information regarding the trees slated to be removed. She told Kress she is a trained forester and is concerned about his process.

“I understand the danger and risk of hazardous trees,” Smith said, “and yet it seems that you are anticipating hazards into the future. And a lot of the trees that have been marked are, really, town specimen trees. They create the environment in which we live. I’ve been living here for over 35 years, and there seems to be sort of a constant push and pull between the power company and the people of Wendell, who want their trees and also want our electricity granted.”

Smith said she has generated a list of healthy trees she believes are inappropriately labeled for removal and first mentioned a 44-inch sugar maple on the south common.

“It has a tremendously healthy canopy,” she said, referring to its upper portion containing all its stems, leaves and reproductive structures. “It’s missing some limbs here and there — very easy to trim up. And if you are considering removing trees of such stature, I think that I would strongly object.”

Kress said age and health — not size or prestige — are his criteria for determining if a tree should be removed. He also said all the trees on the common are dying sugar maples. Smith acknowledged the trees “are under stress” and there are “indications of decline,” but believes that is not a reason for their removal.

Smith also said there is a tree in “severe decline” across from the Wendell Senior Center. She acknowledged it is sensible to remove this tree but said notices of events and municipal meetings are often posted there. Kress said that tree’s fate can be reduced to deadwooding (the removal of dead branches) and mentioned Wendell has one of the state’s worst histories of tree-related power outages.

“This is the town’s chance to get it done for free,” Kress said of the tree removal.

Of the 167 trees on Kress’ list, 106 are on Wendell Depot Road, 49 are on Lockes Village Road and 12 are on Locke Hill Road.

Kress noted all the trees on his list are owned by the town and he cannot remove them without Dornbusch’s permission. He said he has no interest in removing healthy trees — only ones with a higher-than-average likelihood of failure within the next four years.

Kress said experts predict that weather changes will result in virtually no surviving sugar maples in the United States in 20 to 50 years, a claim protested by Dan Boyden, who attended the hearing in person and said he is a maple sugarer. Boyden also objected when Kress said people in town don’t water trees, even during a drought.

Visibly agitated, Kress said he has spent hours reviewing the trees on his list and he can tell when a tree isn’t getting water when it needs it. Boyden told Kress he is making “a major assumption” about town residents. The exchange became heated, at which time Dornbusch asked the two men to be respectful and let each other finish their statements.

Boyden, who said he uses five sugar maples tagged for removal, accused Kress of coming after his livelihood by cutting down roadside trees.

“I tap those trees,” he said, adding that every tap carries the potential of a quart of syrup each year. “That’s $20 per tap (that) you take away.”

Boyden said it is absurd to him to negatively affect the town’s sugaring tradition.

“You should not be taking from farmers,” he said. “It’s just not right.”

Dan Leahy, who sits on the town’s Open Space Committee, told Kress he had taken a strong position without deferring to the town’s concerned residents, and accused Kress of being antagonistic.

“I think the tone is not right,” he said.

According to Dornbusch, Tuesday’s hearing was continued until the week of Oct. 17.

Reach Domenic Poli at dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.


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