There is a lot of work going on around Worthington this summer. The highway improvements on Rte. 143, the traffic circle at Worthington Corners, the preparations for bringing Comcast to town, and perhaps, the most controversial, the removal of trees by Eversource working together with the town Tree Warden. Questions and concerns from Helen and David Pollard to the Select Board have been addressed in a letter from the Select Board. As the current chair of the Planning Board as well as a member of the Select Board, I would also like to address the issue of tree removals this summer.
While the removal of healthy trees requires a hearing before the Planning Board that includes the Tree Warden and the party wishing to remove the tree or trees, there are exceptions to this requirement. If the party wishing to remove the tree is the electric utility (Eversource in our case), they are exempt from this public hearing requirement. Eversource is required by law to present an Annual Vegetation Management Plan and/or Annual Tree Removal Plan for all trees and vegetation that may impact or endanger the power lines. This year has been no exception. This plan is reviewed and approved by our Tree Warden and he/she can dispute specific planned removals. This has happened historically.
Currently, there are many trees being removed by Eversource.This is a link to an Eversource site for FAQs on their tree removal policies:
https://www.eversource.com/wmeco/wms/faqs-treetrimming.aspx?nl=resources The Tree Warden is also exempt from the requirement to hold a public hearing in the case of dead or diseased trees that he/she determines to be a hazard to traffic, people, or property. In my experience on the Planning Board, the Tree Warden has on occasion delayed removal of a struggling but viable tree.
Any other tree removal on a public way does require a hearing that needs to be publicly posted well in advance. There is also a requirement for an annual public hearing to take place within 30 days after Town Meeting for the Highway Department to present its annual tree removal plan for any planned maintenance.
There are diseases attacking maple trees throughout New England, and sadly our trees are no exception. They are also vulnerable to the damages of road salt and sand. As a result many of our once-beautiful trees are no longer healthy and are being removed for public safety. In a recent incident, a tree scheduled for removal crashed before the work could be done, falling across and blocking a major roadway, narrowly missing a vehicle and bringing down power and telephone lines.
It should also be noted that not all of the trees being removed are maples, but since our maple trees are an iconic part of Worthington, we especially notice and lament their absence. Perhaps when all the highway work is completed along Rte. 143 it will be possible to replant trees along our roads, or perhaps the Rolland Fund can help to replant healthy young maple trees along our roads. These will take some years to grow to the beauty of the trees we have lost, but it will be an investment for our future generations to enjoy.