Unbeknownst to many in Watertown, 20 foot wide piece of land stretching from one end of town to the other is actually owned by the City of Cambridge, and that area has become a source of confusion and controversy now that Cambridge announced the removal of trees on the land that sits above a large water pipe.
The water main, 4 to 5 feet in diameter, connects Cambridge to one of its main water sources – a reservoir in Waltham. Over the years, trees have grown over the pipe and the roots of some have infiltrated the pipe.
The Cambridge Watertown Department informed Watertown Tree Warden Chris Hayward at the end of January that 25 trees will be removed from the area along Linear Park (behind Town Hall) and along the Community Path between Whites Avenue and Waverley Avenue. The work will take place between Feb. 6 and Feb. 10. All of the trees removed will be from Cambridge’s property, Hayward said, and none on Watertown land will be removed.
“It is definitely unfortunate,” Hayward said. “For me, as tree warden, I am unhappy to see it happen, but in reality if it wasn’t done there could be threats to public safety.”
The pipe could break due to root infiltration, or if a large limb from a tree fell on the water main and cause flooding, Hayward said. The trees removed will not be replaced, he said, so that similar problems do not arise in the future.
The trees sit north of the path, and those that will be removed have been marked, Hayward said. Not all the trees in these areas will be impacted.
“We have a line of cherry trees along Linear Path, planted in 2001-02,” Hayward said. “Those are on Watertown property and will not be cut down.”
While the focus of the tree removals and other maintenance will be on the path behind Town Hall and stretching between Whites and Waverley avenues, that is just the beginning. More trees growing near the pipe where it runs through other parts of town will be removed, Hayward said.
The pipe was put in during the 1800s, Hayward said, and runs along what was the Boston & Maine Railroad tracks.
It runs through Watertown beginning on the Eastside at Mt. Auburn Street, near the Shaw’s, then it goes past Newlywed Foods on Grove Street. The pipe stretches down along the Community Path that goes from Arlington Street, behind the Watertown Mall to School Street and then runs along Arsenal Street.
The pipe runs behind what will be Elan Watertown (at Irving Street/Arsenal Street) and then moves over to cross Mt. Auburn Street in Watertown Square at Baptist Walk, under the Municipal Parking Lot by CVS, and behind the library, where it connects to the area to be worked on: Linear Park and the Community Path west of Whites Avenue.
After it hits Waverley Avenue, it crosses Main Street near the Halfway Cafe, goes down Acton Street, and moves over to Waltham Street and into the City of Waltham.
While much of the path runs next to public paths and roads, some of Cambridge’s 20 foot right-of-way sometimes goes through people’s backyards. Some homeowners do not even realize it.
“People have built sheds or even additions to homes on top of the pipe,” Hayward said.
The City of Cambridge has been contacting homeowners whose property the pipe runs through, Hayward said.
“They have starting working with abutters and others are denying (that the right of way is on their property),” Hayward said.
Questions and inquiries can be made to David Kaplan of the Cambridge Water Department at 617-349-4770.