Greening Commonwealth Road – Part 3

This morning a garbage truck drove into a limb of the Red Maple tree in front of 71 Commonwealth Road and split the entire tree in two. The company, BFI, called Chris Hayward, Watertown Tree Warden, and he determined that the tree had to come down. It's a big loss as that was one of the few healthy trees on the street. BFI is going to pay to have several trees planted on the street.

This unfortunate event did have one good result. It got the Tree Warden to visit Commonwealth Road, something that a number of us have been trying to do for quite a while and more urgently since a big limb fell off the tree in front of #63 a couple weeks ago. Chris said he had received calls from at least five people on the street about the condition of our trees but that we were still very far down on his list and it would have been a long time before he ever got here.

While he was here he did a survey of the whole street and the news, as you can guess if you've looked up lately, is not good. Most of the trees are Norway Maples that were planted at the same time after a 1938 hurricane knocked down all the trees on the street. They are reaching the end of their lifespan, which has been made much shorter becuase of the way they have been mistreated.

Trees in front of #60, #56, and #41 will be taken down as soon as possible. Many other trees could come down but Chris said he would leave them for now so that the street doesn't lose too many at once.

Some of the trees that look like they are dying are actually relatively healthy but being attacked by fungus. “Tar spot” is a fungus that grows in the soil and gives the leaves black spots. The best thing to do to get rid of it is to be sure to collect the leaves in the fall and dispose of them rather than mulching them back into the soil. Anthracnos is a fungus that makes the edges of the leaves turn brown and crinkly. It is particularly prevalent this year because of all the rain we had in the spring. With luck it won't be so bad next year.

Here's the important part: To get new trees, property owners need to call the Office of the Tree Warden (Daphne Collins, Clerk: 617-972-6426) and request that a new tree be planted. This will put us on the list for plantings in fall (late November/early December) or spring (early June). Only 60 trees are planted each season. The list is posted on the Watertown web site here: Fall Planting 2006 (here's what was planted in the spring: Spring Planting 2006). So we are currently on the list for two trees, #23 and #60. There are only 29 trees on the list for the fall so PLEASE CALL AND REQUEST A TREE NOW.

But even once we are on the list much has to happen before a tree actually gets planted. First, a new tree can't be planted in the same place as an old tree for a number of years. They won't plant it right next to the stump either because when the town (finally) sends a crew to take out the stump they might damage the new tree. So a new spot for the tree has to be located. This means calling the DPW to locate the water and sewer lines and DigSafe to locate the underground utilities. On a street as tight as ours, there aren't many good places for trees.

Taking a cue from nearby towns like Brookline, Chris is recommending that new trees be planted on the property (within 10 or 15 feet of the curb) rather than in what is aptly called the “death strip” between the sidewalk and the street. If you would be willing to have the tree planted on your property be sure to let the Tree Warden's office know. The town will plant the tree and take care of it for a year. After that it's the owner's responsibility.

One thing that could help the remaining trees live a little longer is to take up the asphalt that is covering the roots of so many of them. They should have at least 3 feet around them for the roots to get air and water. Many of the trees on our street have a foot or less of soil around them. Back in June 2005, I called the DPW and talked to Ed Baptista who told me I just had to put in the request and they would come and rip up the asphalt and put down soil and seed it. So I went ahead and put in the request to do the work in front of the houses listed below.

338 Belmont
32 (also requested sidewalk repair)
Obviously the DPW hasn't gotten around to us so I will follow up with Ed Baptista.


Previous posts
Another Tree Taken
Greening Commonwealth Road
Greening Commonwealth Road – Part 2

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