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Real damage was done 10 years ago

"When you look at them - really look at them - they must be among the ugliest trees in town.Horribly topped a decade or so ago by someone from the city or power company, the old maples next to the Flying Penguin building on Winslow Way are a mass of raggedy suckers shooting up out of old wounds, random growth trying to pass itself off as healthy limbs and branches. Despite their mass of broad shady leaves, the trees aren't thriving so much as clinging to life.Even so, we can see how their imminent removal sparked a minor protest over the weekend, their massive trunks adorned with ribbons and banners reading I am your elder. Please give me a chance and other sentiments. Championing the trees' interests around city hall, at least until an arborist and plant pathologist found the trees too badly damaged to warrant retention, was Councilwoman Christine Nasser. In correspondence to city officials this week, Nasser suggested some policy considerations raised by the trees' imminent removal; we relay her comments here:1. The community values trees. Future public works projects should take that into account in their design and should clearly address the desirability and viability of preserving existing trees early in the design (this includes bike lanes and sidewalks as well as road projects). 2. According to the recommendations in the arborists' report, where trees will be saved during construction, treatment must occur several months prior to construction, further emphasizing the need to determine their desirability and viability early on.3. In downtown Winslow, old trees are particularly valued. We should conduct an inventory of trees in city right-of-way or on city property and take proactive steps to keep them healthy. A bad public works pruning about 10 years ago was probably the death knell for one of the old Maple trees on E. Winslow Way. Tree care should be part of the public works budget.Then Tuesday morning, we got a call from Councilman Michael Pollock, insisting that with proper accommodation of root and soil, the Winslow Way trees can still be saved. He promised to bring up the issue at this week's council meeting. They've been kind of butchered, Pollock conceded, but a lot of people do like them.Sorry, Mike. We've been over the arborist's report again and again, and with the trees ravaged by fungus and decay, we don't see much hope. The real damage won't be done by the road crew's ax and saw; it was done a decade ago by the clods who decapitated the trees in the first place.Instead, perhaps it's time for a good policy discussion, as suggested by Nasser. For while we're no arborists, we can see a similar fate befalling countless mature trees around the island over the next decade.While the island's vaunted rural character is largely defined by its shady, tree-lined roadways, those trees grow predominately in the utility rights-of-way. But drive down Blakely Avenue and you'll find several miles of trees shorn of limbs and branches on one side, to keep them clear of power lines that should by rights be underground. North-end residents still bristle at the savaging of a row of healthy firs next to the highway at Hidden Cove Road, topped about five years ago - again, to keep them clear of lines.We're no fans of power outages, but we suspect this type of trimming falls outside best tree management. Perhaps a visit from the folks at Plant Amnesty is in order, to give city and power company crews a few lessons in sound pruning. Topping certainly isn't it. "

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