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Hope Crolius: Preserve the trees, attend the meeting at Town Hall

To the editor:

In 1900, Amherst’s first tree warden, Dr. George Stone, planted more than a dozen pin oaks along both sides of Kellogg Avenue. Outliving all the humans alive then, these trees now tower over the heart of downtown, a testament to what mighty oaks can endure: The bottom of their trunks are encased in an asphalt sidewalk, their roots have been compacted by foot and car traffic, their branches have been lifted to accommodate utility wires and still they grow — a little worse for the wear and tear and in need of some care, but still providing a welcome oasis of shade in a sea of concrete.

They are tall trees in a congested downtown — a rarity. The history of Amherst’s droughts and rainy seasons is hidden deep in their inner rings, and if they could speak, they would tell of lovers who strolled under their dappled shade, the comings and goings of mail carriers setting out on their rounds from the post office, and music pulsing from the walls and out the windows of the Unitarian Society. Generation after generation of humans, one lifetime for an oak.

To make way for an expansion of the Unitarian Society, the architects of this project are calling for the cutting of one of these trees. (Another, closer to Rao’s, has already been marked by the town as being structurally unsound and is coming down.) At its February meeting, the Amherst Public Shade Tree Committee recommended that the design be reworked so as to spare this living piece of history and the town tree warden suggested construction alternatives that would minimize damage to the root zones.

Despite this, the Unitarian Society scheduled a public hearing this week to get permission to proceed with the plan to cut the tree down.

Hope Crolius

Amherst

Hope Crolius is chairwoman of the Amherst Public Shade Tree Committee.

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