Committee hopes proposed bylaw will grow enthusiasm for trees

Jul 8, 2024

Select Board members offered initial support at their July 8 meeting for a bylaw that advocates say would further protect the town’s trees.

The bylaw, which was created by members of the Tree Committee and could come before fall Town Meeting voters, would aim to bolster the town’s tree population and encourage the public to plant and care for trees, said Andrea Langhauser, Tree Committee bylaw subcommittee member.

Proposed wording would expand the definition of a public tree to include trees that might be on private land but overhang onto public land and require replacements be planted when a tree is taken down.

The bylaw would also establish a fund “for the care and management of trees.’’ The committee also seeks to protect trees during construction projects.

The Tree Committee has been meeting to develop the bylaw and discuss other forms of advocacy.

Especially in an era of climate change, trees play a vital role in lowering temperatures, supporting stormwater runoff, enhancing property values and providing aesthetic appeal, the members said in a presentation to the board.

Select Board member David Tatelbaum agreed that trees are “important now more than ever.’’

Select board member Shawn McDonald urged the committee to firm up the wording quickly so the bylaw can be brought to town counsel for review. The language should be carefully developed so it is not “onerous,’’ he said.

He said he understands that the project developed because “somebody was cutting large old trees where they sholdn’t have.’’

The committee has also developed and looks to expand an “adopt a tree’’ program, committee chair Ann Parson said, to encourage not only planting but also maintenance. “To plant trees, you have to water trees,’’ she said.

She also hopes to eventually offer trees for free or at reduced cost for people living in “heat islands,’’ she said.

Having a designated fund for trees would be helpful, DPW Director Timothy Barber said. He said he supported the bylaw and a specific fund would be “a great way to go.’’