Trees coming down on Chestnut Hill Avenue

  • This row of sugar maples will be cut down by National Grid due to their poor condition and threat to power lines and nearby properties. Objections raised to the cutting of two of these trees was recently the subject of a hearing before the Athol Selectboard, which ultimately approved their removal. Staff Photo/Greg Vine

For the Athol Daily News
Published: 10/12/2020 2:16:41 PM
Modified: 10/12/2020 2:16:29 PM

ATHOL — Few things raise more concern among residents of New England neighborhoods than the felling of handsome, familiar old trees. Such was the case at last week’s meeting of the Athol Selectboard.

Tree Warden Travis Knechtel met with the board to discuss the need to remove two large trees on Chestnut Hill Avenue.

“On Sept. 10, National Grid applied for a shade tree removal permit under the Hazard Tree Removal and Mitigation Program. They identified 27 town trees for removal in the Chestnut Hill, Pinedale Road and Pinedale Avenue area.

“On Sept. 22, a tree hearing was held. At that hearing, Mr. Jaret Thiem objected to the removal of two sugar maples located at 1890 Chestnut Hill Avenue.”

Knechtel said an arborist identified some “serious defects” in the two large trees, which the tree warden said he confirmed with an examination of his own.

He then showed the board some pictures to back up his contention that the trees did pose a threat to life and property.

Most obvious on the southern-most tree was an old pruning cut that failed to heal, leading to the creation of a gaping hole.

“The cavity extends down into that tree two, maybe four feet,” said Knechtel. “The issue with the location of that cavity is that just above it (has weakened the tree), So, myself and the National Grid arborist believe that over a five-year period, it’s pretty likely that piece will fail.

“If it does fail, obviously, it will damage the (power) lines, and the homeowner says she is concerned for her home.”

He also showed pictures that showed roots damaged by road work over the years, adding to his opinion the tree is a “good candidate for removal.”

Board members then got a look at the northern-most tree. Pictures showed a cavity that had developed just below a fork where two sections of the trunk diverged.

“That cavity extends down into that trunk area about six feet,” said Knechtel. “The canopy looked good and the root system seemed OK. But I have a pretty good feeling that, within the next few years — maybe even less — in a storm event, one of those ‘leaders,’ or both of those leaders are going to fail. That’s going to cause damage to the lines and potentially to the roadway and for the homeowner.

“My opinion is this tree should also be on the list for removal. I concur with the National Grid arborist.”

Board Chair Rebecca Bialecki asked Knechtel why Thiem raised an objection to the removal of the trees at the hearing on Sept. 22.

“Mr. Thiem objected to their removal — and that’s his right — saying he believed these trees were used for maple sugar production,” Knechtel replied.

The tree warden said he did speak to the homeowner at 1890 Chestnut Hill Avenue, who told him the trees should come down.

“These trees are a significant sight hazard for her pulling out of her driveway as she looks to the north,” he said. “These trees are right on the edge of the road, so it’s very hard to look around them.

“With all that being said, in my opinion they should be removed.”

“My objection was over just the look of the overall tree,” said Thiem. “I’m not an arborist, obviously, but they had a full canopy. And across the street there are a few ash trees that are clearly dead with no canopy that were not marked. So, I just wasn’t sure why we were marking live trees and not the ones across the street that are clearly dead.”

In response to an inquiry from Bialecki, Town Counsel John Barrett confirmed that, because an objection to the cutting of the trees was raised at the original tree hearing, it was up to the Selectboard to either approve or deny their removal. The vote in favor of removal was unanimous.

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