(This is the unedited version of the column which appeared in the 5/16 edition of the Lincoln Journal)
Section 18 of Document #602984 HWY 0280 (the Wetlands Replication Plan section of the contract governing the construction of Rt. 2) clearly states: “the contractor shall attempt to retain mature native trees.” The contract defines those trees as “10 inches in diameter, or greater.” That means many of Lincoln’s larger, more mature trees were supposed to have been left alone. So, why were so many of these mature trees mercilessly cut down? Why the wholesale destruction? What happened? And who’s to blame? Let’s consider the facts and the events as they have unfolded, and see if we can come to any conclusions.
The Boston Globe reported in its April 18 edition that trees had been cleared from 10 hectares of land along Rt. 2, from Bedford Road to just west of Sandy Pond Road–most,
if not all of it, in Lincoln. Each hectare equals about 2.5 acres, so that’s about 25 acres of trees. The construction contractor, D.W. White Construction, subcontracted the tree removals to the Cook Company which is based in Upton MA. Cook’s website
describes the company as “a fully mechanized land clearing company.” Boy, they sure describe themselves well!
The construction contract between MassDOT and the contractor calls for the removal of all trees within the roadway footprint and along the sides of the access roads. That’s to be
expected. It also creates a wide construction easement. It was assumed, and it was negotiated by town representatives, that trees within that easement would be cut down only sparingly and as required. That’s why that clause is in that document. Instead, the Cook Company clear cut all the trees, mature or not, all the way to the boundaries of those
One Cambridge Turnpike resident said that he ran outside when he saw the tree-cutter in operation and asked that a few mature maple trees on his property, that were not near the roadway, be spared. They were left standing that day. A few days later he went away for the weekend and when he returned, the trees were gone. His wife cried when she saw the devastation.
How did Lincoln allow this to happen? It’s complicated, but you might call it history falling between the cracks.
Lincoln has been represented over the two decades of planning and design of
this project by a number of town officials. These include Selectmen Roz Delori and Sara Mattes and Planning Board members Tom DeNormandie, John Snell and Dan Boynton. Of these, only Boynton lives in the area affected. The others, while diligent during their terms and frequently after, had no skin in the game and they eventually faded away.
The current Board of Selectmen, with virtually no history on the project, and perhaps lulled into complacency by years of inaction on the project, didn’t even bother to appoint a Rt. 2 representative from among themselves, even as the construction phase was kicking in. Before long, the responsibility for oversight fell to Chris Reilly, Planning Board Administrator. Unfortunately, Chris is relatively new to town and has no project history either.
So, when the trees came down, town officials just assumed that it was done in accordance with the contract. Sure, it was ugly, but that’s how construction looks in the beginning. Nobody in town government was aware of the Wetlands Replication Plan; nobody had any
history on the project. Last Monday, a contingent of Brooks Road residents met with the Selectmen to voice their complaints about the tree removals and the increased noise and the headlights that now shine into their living rooms and bedrooms. The Selectmen showed empathy, but didn’t think there was much they could do.
Selectman chairman Peter Braun, a lawyer himself, told the group to take a look at the contract and see if they could find a violation upon which to build a case. He could have directed Town Counsel to pore over the contract and report back post haste, but he left it to Dan Boynton and his Brooks Road neighbors to do that.
Well, now they know about Document #602984 HWY 0280. The Selectmen know that the contract called for saving trees over 10 inches in diameter whenever possible. They know this wasn’t done. They know the town has been pillaged by tree marauders. What, if
anything, will they do about it?