By Ashlyn Kelly
FRAMINGHAM – The Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) has finished the project to remove Red Pine trees from 5.5 acres of land along the Hultman aqueduct in Framingham.
SOURCE first reported on the tree cutting, when the project began last Wednesday, March 2. The MWRA owns the property.
The state agency told SOURCE the project has already been completed.
In conjunction with the Department of Conservation and Recreation, the trees were removed because they “posed a risk of property damage to property adjacent to the aqueduct and MWRA crews who routinely maintain the property,” said the MWRA this week.
Neighbors were angry about the tree cutting and also want the state agency to re-plant, which the agency has said it would not.
But now, the Executive Director of the MWRA and Framingham officials will meet this week due to the repeated complaints from the neighbors, said City Councilor Janet Leombruno.
“Hopefully we can work together to help with a solution to offset the massive blow to the neighborhoods,” said the at-large Councilor, who lives near the aqueduct.
The MWRA removed scores of red pine trees, which they said were either dead or decaying.
Nicola Cataldo, a conservation horticulturist, said because of the proximity of the trees to one another, they were all “weak” and “fragile.
“They blow down [two to three] trees per year for as far back as I can remember and they are a fire hazard – pine burns fast and easily,” she added. “These are dry ones and way too close to two schools and many homes.”
In addition to the Red Pines, which are non-native to this area, there were other invasive species contributing to the reason why native plants struggled along the aqueduct.
The MRWA said after the trees were removed, “a large percentage the trees were chipped and left on-site to encourage new growth.”
City Councilor Janet Leombruno asked, “If the goal was to remove the red pines that were choking out the other trees, why remove all vegetation, and how is new vegetation supposed to grow through the layers of pine chips?
“Nothing can grow through that,” she added.
Cataldo said that this was ideal. “Pine chips are mulch and mulch improves the soil … and the real bonus is that this mulch was here! It was not shipped in from elsewhere carrying all the insect eggs and larvae and pathogens of another site.”
State Rep. Jack Patrick Lewis said he was told by the MWRA that there were notices left at the homes of abutters of the aqueduct and the right of way on March 2.
Councilor Leombruno said she spoke to neighbors, who said they did not receive any advance notification.
“I do believe the MWRA wants to be good neighbors,” Leombruno added. “I just think there should’ve been better communication by letting the abutters, neighbors, and City know exactly what was coming their way.”
“Given how helpful the MWRA has been over my 30 years while living on Cider Mill Road, Framingham, I am hoping you can help with some questions regarding the recent and ongoing work on the Hultman aqueduct. While taking a walk at lunch yesterday and today (March 2), I was amazed at the large number of trees being cut down, in many cases taking less than 45 seconds a tree. These trees have provided a buffer (noise and visual) from the middle and elementary schools along with the neighborhoods on the other side of the Aqueduct for decades. This privacy is now completely gone,” wrote Framingham resident Gary Chedekel to the MWRA and to City officials.
While the MWRA does not have any future projects planned, Rep. Lewis asked “that the Mayor’s office and our legislative offices be informed of any future projects in Framingham.”
Currently, the MWRA does not plan to replant as new roots may damage the aqueduct but instead plans “to allow the area to re-grow naturally, with native species, under management and maintenance by MWRA staff,” said the state agency.
According to Cataldo, the site should not need replanting. “This site already has many native species struggling to live and without the non-native … red pines, they will take off and thrive.
“It’s my opinion that this project was executed to the highest environmental standards,” Cataldo said. “This tree-cutting was long overdue and was executed with unusually good care and planning.”
But neighbors to the aqueduct are still unhappy.
“Unfortunately, I have watched these pines slowly deteriorate from disease and fully agree they needed to be removed before causing property damage or injury; however, are there any plans for replanting a tree for a tree? I realize that it would take decades for newly planted trees to grow to a height to recreate the barrier we had just a few days ago but replacing each cut down pine with a newly planted tree would at least be a start. With that said, I would have to imagine that (a) replanting was never taken into consideration and more importantly (b) there is no budget for these types of replanting costs. If this is the case, I am fairly confident that residents of wealthier communities such as Wellesley or Weston would never accept this answer and a solution would most definitely be found,” wrote Chedekel to the state and city leaders.
“At this time, I am not sure what can be done to rectify what has truly become an eyesore to what was a beautiful neighborhood but I am fairly confident that many of my Cider Mill neighbors will now take a haircut to the value of their homes based on the newly created view from their homes,” wrote Chedekel to the MWRA and the Mayor’s office
Ashlyn Kelly is a Spring 2022 SOURCE intern. She is a is a senior communication arts major with minors in political science and journalism at Framingham State University. When she is not writing an article, you can usually find her in a theatre.