Tree Removal Suspicious, Merits Further Explanation

To the editors:



In an article on the Grant Street ash tree (“Cambridge Council Blasts Harvard in Tree Dispute,” news, Oct. 31), you quote Mary Power, Harvard’s Senior Dir.ector of Community Relations, rebutting neighbors’ claim that Harvard may bear responsibility for damage done to the buttress roots of the tree. Her claim is that decay had been detected back in 2004 and led Harvard’s “experts” to conclude that the tree was a safety hazard. We would like to respond to these somewhat vague and dismissive remarks with some questions.

First, if the tree was, in fact, a safety hazard in 2004, why did Harvard leave it standing there? Why didn’t they apply to the City to have it removed then? And why did the City’s experts prune the tree at about the same time?

Second, in 2005, when construction began at the Grant Street site, why hadn’t Harvard provided a “tree surround” to protect the tree’s trunk and buttress roots from the heavy equipment? Was it because the construction workers and their supervisors already knew of Harvard’s decision to remove the tree-well before the City’s tree-removal hearing on Sept. 5? In any case, the extensive damage clearly visible on the top of the roots could only have been caused by heavy construction equipment, and could have been prevented by a tree surround. Why was this not done? Was Harvard unilaterally making decisions about City trees? Was deliberate neglect at the Grant Street construction site the primary reason that the ash tree was removed?

These are our questions. We believe they deserve serious and detailed answers from both Harvard and the City. Mary Power’s assurance that “trees do eventually have health issues” doesn’t work for us.



SARAH SMITH

KEVIN WHITFIELD

Cambridge, Mass.

Nov. 8, 2006