By Paul Tennant
---- — NORTH ANDOVER — Three selectmen and a couple of environmentally conscientious homeowners tried to save it, but in the end, the fate of one of the Norway maples in front of 118 Second St. was inevitable.
The century-old tree is diseased and will have to be cut down.
When National Grid seeks permission from the Board of Selectmen to remove trees that are in danger of falling on power lines, it’s almost always a routine affirmative vote with little or no discussion. This past Monday night’s hearing, however, was not routine at all.
Neil Doran, an arborist who works for National Grid, asked for permission to remove 27 trees on Waverly Road, Massachusetts Avenue and Sutton, Main, Maple, Peters and Second streets. Doran and Public Works Director Bruce Thibodeau both said the trees in question are dying or seriously weakened and should be cut down.
David Morton, who along with his wife Mary owns the house at 118-120 Second St., made a strong bid to save the Norway maple that’s in front of No. 118. David Morton asked “to speak on behalf of one tree.”
He said he would be willing to pay to save the tree if an arborist determined it could be healed. The condemned Norway maple has a large cavity on the trunk, according to a report submitted to the selectmen by National Grid.
Selectman Tracy Watson, who describes herself as a “tree hugger,” pointed out tree surgery can be very expensive, even in the “thousands of dollars,” she said. Rosemary Connelly Smedile, chairwoman of the board, said she could empathize with the Mortons’ attachment to the tree.
She used to have two oaks in front of her house, she said. Then one of the oaks got struck by lightning and an arborist advised her it was beyond repair, she recalled. When the damaged oak was removed, it took away the “symmetry” of her property, she said.
Selectman William Gordon made a motion to authorize National Grid to remove 26 instead of 27 trees.
“Let’s save one tree,” Gordon urged his colleagues. The vote was 3-2, with Gordon, Smedile and Donald Stewart in favor and Richard Vaillancourt and Watson opposed.
The Mortons were true to their word. They consulted an arborist with Valley Tree Service, who inspected the troubled tree Wednesday morning and gave them the bad news: Even with surgery, the tree still poses a potential hazard.
“It’s too far gone,” David Morton said. “We agree. It has to come down.”
“I feel so sad,” said Mary, who estimated the tree is “at least 100 years old.” Asked why she and her husband made such an effort to save this one, she said, “We love trees.”
All is not lost, however. David said they will replace the aged Norway maple with another tree, most likely a flowering pear. They also intend to pay for the new tree, even though it will be planted on town land, he said.
Monday’s selectmen’s meeting was a big one for trees. While the Mortons fought to save the Norway maple on Second Street, James Batson, of 773 Winter St., asked for permission to remove seven trees on the town right-of-way near his property that have become a hazard.
When guests visit him and his wife Judy, they have to park their cars in a manner that puts them in the way of traffic, he said. Batson said he will plant seven trees in the area to replace those that are removed.
Batson said he will pay to remove the hazardous trees. The board unanimously approved his request for permission to have them cut down.