The Trees Need Your Support
I am writing this letter to encourage Winthrop residents who value our public trees to contact our Town Council members and ask that they approve the “Group Petition” presented to them on August 17, 2021. This petition asks to: (1) temporarily suspend removal of trees that are not a clear danger, and (2) if removal is debatable, hold a public hearing as required by MGL87 and if necessary, obtain an arborist recommendation. These measures are temporary only until a Tree Ordinance is adopted. The Tree Ordinance is currently in draft form and is expected to codify standards for preservation of existing trees and promote new tree plantings.
The Group petition reflects the growing concern with loss of tree canopy in Winthrop. Living next to a busy airport demands we prioritize our trees to mitigate the air pollution and noise, not to mention the other benefits like reducing heat and damp basements. The petition request for public hearing is to ensure a transparent and more disciplined, collaborative process. Unfortunately the current process appears sporadic and it is unclear if State Law MGL 87 has been consistently followed as there are no tree committee minutes and few records available from the last few years.
Given our tight budget, Town Council must weigh the cost/benefits associated with caring for our trees. The public health, climate, and social benefits are obvious. But as increasing studies show, economics are also on the side of trees. A few examples include: removing a tree and stump for a moderate size tree costs, on average, over $1,000 while average cost of pruning is under $500; average energy savings from reduced a/c can be more than 2.5% annually; winter heat costs can be reduced by the wind shield trees provide; property values are increased by trees and greenscapes. Unfortunately, the current funding for our trees is almost non-existent as the Town eliminated the Tree Department years ago and redeployed those funds. This budget choice, as understandable as it is, shows in the current diminished canopy and state of our trees. I believe it is time to revisit this budget choice and weigh the economic and public health impacts while considering the idea that at least a small portion of the PILOT funds received from Massport should be used to directly mitigate the airport pollution and noise.
The town budget is both a competition of scarce resources and a reflection of our collective values and priorities. Trees are critical infrastructure for our health, our climate, and town vibrancy. Can we afford not to invest in an urban landscape? If you agree, please contact the Town Council and encourage them to adopt the temporary Group Petition at the next meeting on September 7th. You can email the Town Council via the Town website (click Government tab, then Town Council link).
In closing I wish to thank the Town Council for their timely response to the Group Petition and their consideration of this matter.