NASHUA — With more trees being cut down along Main Street this summer, a city alderman is hoping to create a tree policy that will protect and maintain the community’s remaining tree population.
“Once you cut a tree down, you can’t undo it. Many of the trees in Nashua have been here longer than most of us,” said Alderman-at-Large Diane Sheehan. “We need to be careful with how we change something that is designed to be permanent.”
Sheehan has submitted a proposal to establish a Tree Study Ad Hoc Committee that would research and review possible tree policies, guidelines and legislation while making recommendations about public trees.
“Trees are an important contributor to community image, pride and quality of life,” says Sheehan’s proposed resolution that was presented to the Board of Aldermen this week. “Nashua’s tree resources should be protected and enhanced.”
A comprehensive tree policy would provide guidance, authorization and standards for the management of city trees, according to Sheehan’s proposal, adding guidelines should be developed to address planting, maintenance and removal of trees on public property or public right-of-ways, in addition to native or historical trees.
Trees provide benefits to communities such as reducing air and noise pollution, providing energy-saving shade and cooling, furnishing habitat for wildlife and enhancing aesthetics and property values, states the resolution.
Sheehan is proposing that the new committee consist of three aldermen and at least one member from both the Board of Public Works and Nashua Conservation Commission. The Tree Study Ad Hoc Committee could then make recommendations for public trees — based on its research — to the Board of Public Works.
Concerns about the city’s trees surfaced last summer when many mature trees were cut down as part of the $2 million downtown revitalization project. Last year, about 35 large trees were removed while crews started replacing all of the sidewalks along five blocks of Main Street. More trees have been cut down this summer as work progresses to enhance the downtown area with new sidewalks, modern street lights and drainage improvements. Many of the trees were removed because their roots were damaging the old brick walkways lining Main Street, and had become entangled in utility conduits and pipes. The mature trees being cut down are being replaced with smaller trees that are planted with root barriers so that they do not destroy the new sidewalks, along with other greenery and flower beds.
Alderman-at-Large Dan Moriarty spearheaded an online petition last summer that garnered more than 550 signatures from individuals hoping to keep Main Street’s mature trees standing.
On Wednesday, Moriarty said the proposed tree policy would be a nice addition to the city’s strategic plan. There are still a few trees on Main Street that Moriarty would like to preserve, if possible.
“If I can’t save all of them, maybe I could at least save one or two trees,” said Moriarty, a self-described environmentalist and tree-hugger who is not giving up on his efforts to protect the healthy, mature trees remaining in downtown Nashua.
A total of 90 trees — mostly locust, pear, red maple and linden trees — are slated to be removed as part of the ongoing downtown improvement project, although many of them have already been cut down and replaced with smaller trees such as crabapple, red maple, ginkgo, hornbeam and Japanese Zelkova.
For the past 15 years, the Arbor Day Foundation has included Nashua in its Tree City USA program, as the community has planted more than 2,000 trees.