Mattapoisett Trees

To the Editor:

            The undersigned have earned our standing as “tree-huggers” through many hours of volunteer work with the Mattapoisett Land Trust.  But we think the concerns expressed about 27 trees to be lost as part of the Town’s proposed road improvement project along Main/Water/Beacon/Marion Road are misplaced. While we too mourn the loss of these trees, the many benefits of the project greatly outweigh their loss.

            First, these roads desperately need public safety improvements. From MLT’s Munro Preserve we watch daily as kids on bikes, pedestrians, mobility-impaired folks and drivers run the gauntlet of rough pavement, limited sidewalks, few or no ADA compliant crosswalks, trees extending into the roadway, and similar hazards. With the multi-use path ending nearby at Depot Street, pedestrian and bicycle traffic have increased dramatically. Our town is very lucky not to have suffered a serious injury or fatality on these roads. Public safety should always come first. The town is accepting a significant ongoing risk to human life if we do not move ahead with the road improvement project.

            Second, the town’s storm water management system needs improvement to protect water quality in the harbor and reduce beach closure days. Drainage and storm water problems are severe at the Munro Preserve and even worse adjacent to the town beach. The road project will remedy these drainage and storm water issues at no cost to the Town’s taxpayers. We should seize this opportunity.

            Third, this project creates large future savings for Mattapoisett taxpayers. The project brings $16 million of federal and state funds, with no financial contribution from local taxpayers.  Understand that the proposed road improvements will need to be done in future years whether or not we accept this project. Going forward the existing roadway will fail, underground utilities will need repair, ADA compliance and storm water control/treatment will become required by law, and the 27 trees in question will die or be toppled by storms. Using federal and state funds available now will save Mattapoisett taxpayers hundreds of dollars per household in the future. If we do not move forward, federal and state money will be lost and the resulting tax burden will fall particularly hard on those with fixed incomes or limited financial resources.

            Back to the trees. We think it is short-sighted to plant 34 replacement trees within the Town’s narrow right-of-way where they will need to be smaller trees so as not to interfere as they grow with the improved roadway, curbing and sidewalks. We should not repeat the mistakes of our parents and grandparents who, when facing the destruction caused by the 1938 hurricane, planted replacement trees too close to the road and created the problems we see today. We encourage the town to talk with abutting property owners about siting the project’s replacement trees in their front or side yards, away from the reconstructed roadway. MLT will do this at the Munro Preserve, so a large replacement tree can be planted away from the road and survive for many generations.

            We commend the Select Board for bringing this project forward, and urge the town to move ahead with implementation.

            Sue Osenkowski, Arthur Damaskos, Paul “Ozzie” Osenkowski, Mike Huguenin, Kathleen Urquhart, Matt Urquhart

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