By Susan Gonsalves, Contributing Writer
SOUTHBOROUGH – Following a lengthy discussion, the Southborough Select Board agreed last month to cut down six of nine trees that had been marked for removal as part of a project to relocate the St. Marks Street intersection with Marlborough Road (Route 85).
This decision came during the same meeting in which Historical Commission Chair Michael Weishan had asked to halt the project to allow time for a study of both the burial grounds and cemetery’s periphery to look for graves.
Weishan asked that the tree cutting be stopped to allow time to re-design the project to spare the trees.
The project in question includes fixing water drainage problems, improving the turning radius for fire trucks and buses, extending sidewalks from the Main Street Reconstruction Project and expanding the school parking lot at St. Mark’s School.
Braccio said that she had visited the area on Nov. 16 with Department of Public Works Superintendent Karen Galligan determining that three of the oak trees could be spared without drastically changing the engineering of the project.
The trees’ diameters range in size from six inches to 36 inches and include one elm, one maple, two ash trees and two oaks.
Galligan said the trees are being removed because they are either in the way of installing a planned rerouted road and sidewalk or because they have root systems that would be affected by the work.
Weishan urged the board to reroute the sidewalk and move the proposed intersection to the north in order to keep the trees.
“You and I will never see a tree like that again in our lifetimes,” he told the board, referring to a 75-year-old oak tree in particular. He requested that the hearing be continued until all questions tied to the fate of the area were resolved.
Marguerite Landry, speaking as an individual and not in her role as chair of the Board of Southborough Library Trustees, echoed Weishan’s concerns, asking if adjustments could be made to the plan.
“Anything to save a tree would be great,” Landry said. “I’d hate to see that whole area denuded of trees.”
Galligan said a lot of work went into the design with the goal to disrupt the least number of trees possible. She said the citing of the intersection was done to accommodate the turning radius of fire trucks and school buses. American with Disabilities Act compliance is another factor influencing sidewalk construction.
Stopping the project to redesign at this stage would impact the bid and result in “doubling the work and cost,” Galligan said.
Select Board member Martin Healey said he was in favor of moving forward. Sidewalks are a priority for the town as is safety, he said, adding that it’s a matter of “balancing needs and a desire for safe walking.”
“It seems like we’re in a bind,” said Select Board member Sam Stivers. “I guess in a perfect world, you would actually do the trees before the engineering so you don’t end up with engineering problems you’ve got to fix.”
The Select Board ultimately closed the hearing and approved the cutting of six trees.