Developer will leave one of two ‘gateway’ trees separating UMass, neighborhood

  • One of the two mature silver maples at Sunset Avenue and Fearing Street in Amherst that had been slated to come down as part of a townhouse development near the corner. FOR THE GAZETTE/CAITLIN MOTT

Staff Writer
Published: 4/19/2022 8:51:15 PM
Modified: 4/19/2022 8:49:58 PM

AMHERST — The larger of two big silver maple trees near a proposed housing development at the southwestern edge of the University of Massachusetts campus will remain standing.

After several residents voiced objections to the removal of the trees at a hearing in March, developer Barry Roberts recently withdrew plans to take down the larger tree, measuring 56 inches around at breast height and located at the corner of Sunset Avenue and Fearing Street.

Previously, the Public Shade Tree Committee advocated that this bigger tree remain in place, while one resident wrote a letter of objection to town officials arguing against cutting down either tree.

But because both were recommended for removal by Tree Warden Alan Snow, whose expertise indicates both trees are in a decline phase, the decision on whether to move forward with their removal was delegated to Town Manager Paul Bockelman.

Bockelman said Tuesday that he will accept Roberts’ request to keep the tree standing opposite the Amherst Creamery Office Building at 150 Fearing St., though when its natural life comes to an end the town will be on the hook for the expenses associated with cutting it down.

The smaller of the two silver maples, 43 inches around at breast height, will be compromised by work to sewer lines that serve the neighborhood and will also extend to the new development, which includes 17 townhouses on 2.2 acres of land.

District 3 Councilor Dorothy Pam, who was among those appealing for the trees to be saved, wrote in her regular email newsletter this week , “Saved by popular request, the grand old maple will continue to stand at the corner of Fearing Street and Sunset Avenue.” Pam credited both “strong letters and physical support” by residents for the positive outcome.

“This tree will stand marking the gateway of our strong residential neighborhood,” she wrote.

One of the arguments in favor of the trees is that they serve as a dividing line between the neighborhood’s single-family homes and the tower dormitories of the Southwest Area of the UMass campus.

Roberts’ plans show the planting of numerous new trees when the development is complete.

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