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Two illegal street tree removals prompt Boston officials to issue warning

Posted by Matt Rocheleau  May 23, 2013 12:34 PM

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After two different contractors illegally removed street trees in the South End, city officials issued a reminder this week warning that removing street trees without review or approval from Boston’s tree warden is prohibited and will lead to fines.

Within the past two months, city officials noticed that two trees next to 518 Tremont St. and two others at 451 Marlborough St. had been unlawfully removed, according to Jacquelyn Goddard, a spokeswoman for the Boston Parks and Recreation Department.

In each case, city officials believe contractors working on construction projects at each location took down the trees, she said.

Because the contractors did not have city approval prior to removing the trees, they are responsible to pay the full replacement costs of the trees plus an additional fine, which typically amounts to three times the replacement cost, Goddard said.

“Street trees on public property are protected by Massachusetts General Law Ch. 87, and may not be cut down without a public hearing and authorization by the city tree warden,” the parks department said in a reminder this week.

Permission to legally remove street trees can be sought.

The process includes: submitting a request and site plans to the city parks commissioner and tree warden; a city site inspection to determine tree size, species, condition and whether any other trees might be impacted; and a public hearing before the tree warden.

If the request is approved, the cost of removing the tree is at the expense of the applicant and the applicant must also pay to the city $300 per inch of diameter of removed trees.

That money goes into the tree planting account of the city’s Fund for Parks and Recreation, which is used to plant trees in locations identified by the city’s tree warden, Goddard said. Money in the fund comes from not only fines, but also from grants, donations from individuals, corporations, institutions, friends groups and others.

There are about 38,000 street trees in Boston under the jurisdiction of the city parks department, Goddard said. On average, about 600 are removed each year and 900 are planted each year, she said.

On Arbor Day in 2007, Mayor Thomas M. Menino launched the Grow Boston Greener program. In partnership with the state Department of Conservation and Recreation, the US Forest Service, Boston Natural Areas Network and the Urban Ecology Institute, the program hopes to increase Boston’s tree canopy cover from 29 percent when the program began to 35 percent by 2020, an effort that called for a total of 100,000 trees to be planted in a 13-year span.

The street tree removal request process is outlined on the city’s website, here.

For further information about the process, e-mail parks@cityofboston.gov or call 617-635-4505.

E-mail Matt Rocheleau at mjrochele@gmail.com.
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