NASHUA — A city alderman is on a mission to save the remaining tall trees along Main Street before they are cut down as part of the downtown revitalization project.
Alderman Dan Moriarty, Ward 9, has spearheaded an online petition that has garnered more than 300 signatures from individuals hoping to keep Main Street's mature trees standing.
So far, more than a dozen trees have been cut down, in part because their roots have been damaging the old brick walkways lining Main Street. More than $2 million is being spent to enhance the downtown area, including the installation of new sidewalks, modern street lights and drainage improvements.
"The mature trees that currently line Main Street are an integral part of the beauty and character of Nashua's downtown," Moriarty wrote on the petition. "Two blocks of beautiful, healthy, mature trees were cut down as part of the ongoing sidewalk program, leaving those blocks barren and uninviting. The remaining two blocks of trees need to be protected."
Moriarty's petition, which is available online at the Care2 petition website, had collected 315 signatures as of Wednesday afternoon. He is hoping to collect 1,000 signatures before presenting it to the Board of Public Works.
The petition requests that the board "vote against this misguided approach, and for them to modify their future downtown improvement plans."Moriarty said it is not too late to do what he believes is the correct action. He said the decision to remove the trees was not adequately publicized and that public comment was not sufficiently considered.
"The Board of Public Works needs to listen to the public, who now are becoming increasingly vocal about the devastation being made to Main Street," he wrote. "… Respect Nashua's rich history. Save the trees on Main Street."
In April, crews from the Nashua Parks and Recreation Department began chopping down trees along Main Street sidewalks in front of downtown businesses. During the initial phase, a total of 13 trees were removed.
This week, however, crews again began cutting down trees, this time along the second block of Main Street.
"Main Street is starting to look like a concrete jungle. Stop cutting the beauty of Nashua," wrote petitioner Kathleen Bernard.Another petitioner, Richard Kolb, said streets lined with trees have been proven to lower road rage and speed.
"The shade allows local businesses to set up outdoor seating, something the new trees won't be able to do for a decade. You're killing downtown," wrote Kolb.
The mature trees being cut down will eventually be replaced with new, smaller trees that will be planted with root barriers so that they do not destroy the new sidewalks. Some of these smaller trees have already been planted, along with flower beds, along the first block of Main Street.
Currently, some of the remaining mature trees along Main Street are causing the sidewalk bricks to shift and loosen as the roots grow, creating a hazard for pedestrians, Mayor Donnalee Lozeau said previously.
Jonathan Nute, an arborist with the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension, toured Main Street earlier this year and recommended to the city that a total of 43 trees be taken down, and that 30 remain standing. In addition, he suggested that 21 new trees be planted.
Nicholas Caggiano, superintendent of Parks and Recreation, said previously that the decision to remove all of the Main Street trees was not made lightly, and was debated for quite some time.
The trees, he added, were not planted properly and several of the tree roots have become entangled in utility conduits and pipes.
"Not addressing these issues would require excavation of the new sidewalks in the future when problems arose," Caggiano wrote in a recent staff memo.