Editors, Vineyard Gazette:
In response to the Gazette editorial regarding the proposal to remove trees, I suggest that the removal of a small number of Norway maples will not dramatically affect the sylvan feel of the West Tisbury town center. In this specific project only three trees (of over a dozen) have been requested for removal, those directly impacting the rain gardens (bioswales) that are designed to prevent the runoff of hydrocarbons from the library parking lot into the Tisbury Great Pond.
The trees are not a century old as suggested. The history of the Norway maples in the urban forest dates back to the demise of the American elm. Norway maples were planted in the 1960s to replace the previously-planted American elms lost en masse to Dutch elm disease. Unfortunately, a monoculture (all one species of tree) was planted again. Today urban foresters and horticulturists recommend a diversity of plantings to insure that a pest, pathogen, or storm will not destroy an entire urban forest.
Norway maples later proved an expensive maintenance problem for their tendency to lift sidewalks with their shallow roots that prevent growth underneath their dense canopy. The quintessential maple of New England is the sugar maple. Norway maple is a pest tree, seeding rampantly, and competing with our native vegetation; it is banned for sale and planting in Massachusetts and for good reasons.
The suggestion that new plantings would take decades to re-establish is unfounded. Better trees exist and they can provide a more diverse canopy in less time than you might expect. The choice of these trees will positively affect the sylvan feel of West Tisbury far into the future. There are several people ready to donate large-size trees of appropriate types to the project.
Let’s be sensible about tree planting. Why not make an educated commitment to our town trees? Without an official count, I estimate that most of our urban canopy is even-aged Norway maples, perhaps 60 per cent or more! What would happen if they were felled in a storm with no second or third generation of trees planted for the future? I suggest that the town of West Tisbury invest in its municipal tree plantings through becoming a Tree City USA. This special designation awarded by the National Arbor Day Foundation calls for fiscal and community dedication to the care, development, and diversification of the urban forest.
The library has a vision to improve the landscape of its property and build an ecologically-responsible parking area. Tree removal is integral to the success of the rain gardens that prevent pollution to our ponds. Sure, it’s emotionally difficult to remove mature trees, but trees grow, and the informed, reasoned choices we make as citizens can lead to a healthier, greener future for our town landscape.
Tim Boland, West Tisbury
The writer is director of the Polly Hill Arboretum.