Last week Princeton Street resident Bob Stubblebine woke to the horror that the beautiful and healthy maple tree outside his home had been butchered.
The culprits were not vandals but a crew working for the local utility company Eversource trying to remove branches that could potentially cause power outages during storms.
According to Eversource trees are the number one cause of power outages, especially during severe weather. To minimize those outages, Eversource works year-round to trim and remove trees that threaten the electric system through its Scheduled Maintenance Trimming program.
They say they do this while also respecting the natural landscape.
Stubblebine and others think this is the furthest from the truth and the crews that worked on the maple in front of his home simply hacked away most of the tree until the look and shape of the tree was compromised but Eversource’s electrical wires were clearly visible.
“This is what Eversource calls tree trimming?” said Stubblebine. “I’ve been taking care of this tree for 12 years. It was the fullest healthiest tree on our block – a block which has lost many of its trees in those same 12 years. I am furious and heartbroken.”
Eversource maintains that crews complete the work in accordance with professional standards established by the American National Standards Institute and the International Society of Arboriculture. According to Eversource these guidelines ensure that pruning cuts minimize injury to the tree and consider the individual characteristics, i.e. size, shape, form and condition, of each tree.
However, according to Eversource the clearance required for Scheduled Maintenance Trimming of trees in Eastie is eight feet on the sides, 10 feet below, and 15 feet above the power line.
Rep. Adrian Madaro said his office has been fielding numerous complaints about Eversource’s tree pruning program in the neighborhood and questioned the company’s tactics.
“Over the past few weeks, many of East Boston’s trees have received what I would describe as a hack job rather than a trimming,” said Rep. Madaro. “Not only has this cutting created eyesores, it demonstrates a complete disregard for one of East Boston’s most precious resources. As the neighborhood with some of the fewest trees in Boston, we should be focused on expanding our canopy coverage, not limiting it.”
Since the mid-1970s Eastie residents have been calling for more trees to be planted in the neighborhood.
However, despite efforts by the former Mayor Kevin White Administration in 1975 to plant nearly 500 trees in Eagle Hill and Jeffries Point the neighborhood’s overall tree canopy is only 15 percent of what it should be.
For nearly two years a group of teens for East Boston’s Neighborhood of Affordable Housing (NOAH) have been trying to rekindle the neighborhood’s grassroots effort to get more trees planted in Eastie.
NOAH’s Environmental and Community Building Youth Crew has been able to get nearly 70 trees planted last year and another 40 are slated to be planted this year.
The Youth Crew members have launched the tree canopy project in an effort to bring awareness to Eastie’s lack of street trees and want to double our tree canopy coverage in Eastie. The group define the tree canopy as street trees or trees that line the sidewalks throughout the neighborhood. The youths have been working to gather information and data on the tree canopy and now are starting to plant these new trees throughout Eastie.
The Youth Crew found that there were 1,924 trees in Eastie and over 300,000 linear feet of sidewalk space. On average there is a tree every 167 feet. If a tree was planted every 25 feet Eastie could have over 12,500 trees. The Youth Crew has argued that Eastie is missing out on the positive impacts a fully developed tree canopy could have on the health and well-being of residents.
Trees cool things down by as much as nine degrees and street trees have been found to be most effective at reducing “heat islands”. Trees provide more shade and cooler houses, which means less energy used and less money spent on cooling.
Trees also naturally absorb pollution and could reduce urban noise by 6 to 15 decibels.