(The following piece was submitted by Sharon Bromberg-Lim, a member of Trees for Watertown)
A large real estate equities firm arrives in a small New England town. Based in California, the firm has rolled into many towns before, bought up properties big and small, and plunked down buildings. This project is just one of many investments that the firm owns.
The firm says it must cut down more than 200 trees to put up its buildings. Some of the trees are mature and wise. The wise old trees do the most work, but together, older and younger trees shelter people and buildings from sun. After heavy rain, they absorb excess water and filter out pollutants. Birds sing and nestle in their branches.
Residents already feel their town lacks enough green space with tall trees. They feel that there is not enough open space for their children to play games or for their parents to take a stroll under leafy shade. They worry about climate change and look to trees, one of the most efficient sequesters of carbon and stormwater, to help. They look at buildings that have recently been erected and they wonder, why is there no grace or beauty? And why is there no room for just a sliver of nature?
Birds flying by the beautiful river that flows through the town have come to rely on these trees. Some of the birds live in the little urban forest year ‘round, while others migrate, heading south in the fall and north in the spring. They stop to fuel up in the trees they remember from the last trip. When the trees go, the knowledge passed from one generation of songbirds to the next is no longer relevant. Pushed to the limit, when the trees go, the wildlife goes.
Will the firm adjust its plans for the people and the trees in the small town? Or will the juggernaut push through and cut down as many trees as it finds convenient?
This isn’t a storybook. It’s real life, and the town is ours, Watertown.
Alexandria Real Estate Equities bought a 29-acre parcel of land between Arsenal Street and the Charles River. Alexandria really has proposed to cut down more than 200 trees, many of them in good health. Trees are efficient, interlocking systems of water absorption, pollution-filtration, and oxygen-generation. As our summers get hotter and precipitation patterns more extreme, we need mature trees more than ever.
That is why I am asking Alexandria to save as many trees as possible.
Alexandria, take this opportunity to be a leader among real estate equity firms. Be creative. Your team of intelligent, innovative professionals — from the visionaries at the drafting table and in the boardroom to the people on-site — can break new ground in development strategy, working with the communities you propose to benefit, to be value-additive. Start right here in Watertown. Conserve a significant part of our urban forest while generating a profit. The two goals are not mutually exclusive, only if we think they are.
My fellow Watertown residents, if you care about trees or wildlife, let the planning board know. Send an email to the planning board members via email@example.com by Tuesday, June 8, or come to the planning board meeting on Zoom to discuss 311 Arsenal Street (the parcel’s official street address) on Wednesday, June 9, 7:00 pm. For more information, visit https://www.watertown-ma.gov/ArchiveCenter/ViewFile/Item/5239.
Sharon, I completely agree with you! It is really terrible to cut down more trees in this town. We need the nature, the shade, the outdoor open space. In rainy years the river floods – trees and grass and bushes absorb water. When it all is paved flooding gets worse. As a parent I can tell you that there is not enough open space. Lots of kids here don’t have yards, and use the playgrounds daily. Look at a map of the town! The largest open space is a private, inaccessible golf course.
I hope the young activists groups will help to bring attention to this matter which is affecting all of us here in Watertown. They have been so vocal trying to make changes elsewhere. This is truly urgent! I hope everyone can support this.
Done! Email sent.
When the Four Horsemen of development, greed, mendacity, degradation, and displacement ride into town dangling their promises like bright, shiny objects, elected officials are beguiled, politicians see dollar signs, and ordinary people have only the simple wisdom of their knowledge of a place and its value combined with their informed advocacy to fight them.
Thank you for publishing this letter, Charlie. Could you please make a correction: the lovely trees in this photo by Samatha Rao Vuppala are not in Arsenal Park. This picture shows a few of the hundreds of trees at risk in the Arsenal on the Charles development discussed in Sharon Bromberg-Lim’s letter.
As you have written trees are valuable for removing carbon from our air.
They are one of the most valuable assets Watertown has.
yeah nice touch, we really need them! drove through arsenal yards or whatever it’s called on a sunday morning really not too impressed & a lack of green. on the other hand talking to a tree company workers while they were removing an old elm in my neighborhood, unfortunately for safety. they told me they are removing a lot of the old growth for this reason due to the droughts, such a shame & no one is replacing them, not very good. so I get what you’re saying but we’re missing a huge other side of this. Watertown has the 20′ in tree placement from the street, I have a great one. why can’t we include the whole yard it would help getting some good growth trees where there are none now. Waltham has established a tree farm on the old farm near francis market & they keep increasing it with new growth, how about us this is what we need this is what works, just need some open space the funds are there.
This note us for Alexandria Real Estate Equities regarding cutting down the 257 trees as part of the Arsenal project. If the trees are diseased get the tree warden over there to point out those trees. Otherwise, these trees have been removing Carbon Dioxide out of our environment for years and should not be touched. They are beautiful and should be recognized as a part of the historic section of the Arsenal. If your developers can’t build around these trees then you need to get a new developer or planner. Arsenal Yards have already made the area look like an apartment mecca which only the wealthy can afford even though they promised low income housing. So if this promise was not honored then the fact that Alexandria RRE have promised to replace trees of those destroyed, this will probably not happen either.
Watertown needs to get a handle on the expansion of it’s neighborhoods and preserve those things sacred to Watertown.
Any construction plan that would destroy so many vital community assets is poorly and carelessly conceived. It is reckless and should be opposed.
I WAS THE CHAIRMAN OF THE WATERTOW ARSENAL
OUR COMMITTE ALL FELL IN LOVE WITH THIS BEAUTIFUL
SHARON BROMBERG-LIN ‘S WORDS SAY IT BETTER
THAN I COULD EVER DO.
WHEN WE WERE BUILDING THE ARTS CENTER
ALEXANDRIA MADE A SIGNIFICANT DONATION
TOWARD THE ARTS CENTER PROJECT.
AND WE WERE GRATEFUL
TO COME IN NOW AND WIPE OUT SO MANY TREES
WOULD SOUR THEIR PRESENCE WITH
THE TOWN OF WATERTOWN
Fully agree John. 😉 Trees belong to humanity, not to specific humans.
Thank you for publicizing this travesty. The trees add more to our quality of life than what has turned into a runaway development that will bring traffic, noise and pollution WHILE taking away green space. Let’s STOP further devastation of what little nature we have left here.
My husband and I are opposed to the proposal to remove such a grave number of trees. I have often seen and felt the changing seasons unfold by going to this gorgeous spot. Certainly an alternative could be reached. Trees are living, breathing beauty that literally provide us humans with air! Are we to wall our roads in with concrete? There must be careful discerning thought to this plan.
I lived in Oregon when families stood blocking the equipment of lumber companies that would strip entire hillsides, trying to get them to selectively ” mine.”
The importance of these trees is a given. The plan sounds ill-conceived and archaic and greed driven.
Come on, Watertown STRONG.
Native of Watertown,
Seems their needs to be a significant tax levee placed on projects that engage in whole slaughter of a tree forest. I confess I have not seen the plans but it sure sounds like a price needs to be paid when actions of this magnitude are considered.
The June 9th planning board meeting went overtime, and a full discussion of Alexandria Real Estate Equity’s plans for the Arsenal project will take place at a second meeting on Monday, June 14th at 7 pm.
Watertown residents, if you didn’t get a chance to send in your comments, you can still email them now to firstname.lastname@example.org or attend the Monday night meeting on Zoom (https://watertown-ma.zoom.us/j/92709029148).