I am writing in the hope that you will take a moment to look at the recommendation of the Mass. Dept. of Conservation and Recreation concerning trees in historic landscapes.

Part of the DCR publication on historic landscape preservation, “Terra Firma 2,” reads as follows:


A variety of private individuals and municipal groups may have a stake in the treatment, removal or planting of trees in a historically significant landscape. Obtaining input from all parties at the start will minimize chances for misunderstanding, and can help lay the foundation for teamwork on future tree projects.

Depending on the community and the landscape, decisions about the treatment of any given tree may fall to the tree warden, parks department or park commissioners. The Department of Public Works may be responsible for maintenance. The local historical commission should weigh in on the project from a preservation perspective; they may know of existing planning documents that address the landscape. If the tree is located in a burial ground, the town’s cemetery commission should be involved. Some communities have an active garden club and some landscapes have a friends group – these advocates may have knowledge to share or volunteer services to offer.

Some situations call for outside expertise. If your town does not have a certified arborist on staff, you may need to retain a private contractor to devise treatment plans, undertake advanced work or suggest appropriate replacement species. If the tree in question is part of a larger landscape that requires a plan to guide its overall care and rehabilitation, a landscape architect with experience in historic properties may be hired to create a landscape preservation plan addressing all elements of the site, including vegetation."

I understand and appreciate your valid concern about the mature pine in the Shirley Center Cemetery. However, your remedy does not take into account the interest and expertise of most of the parties cited above. In addition, your move forward with the tree’s removal does not solve the larger problem, which is the restoration of the affected headstones and a comprehensive plan for the cemetery moving forward.

Such a plan could much more easily be carried out with all interested parties involved. There are many grants and other funding sources for historic cemeteries like ours, and the white pine working group has already offered to pay for some of the costs with private funds.

Here, the town had members from the garden club, historical commission, cemetery commission, historical society, meetinghouse preservation board, and, potentially, had the decision not been made so hastily, the center town hall, conservation commission, and planning board, all working together to solve a problem.

I am asking only that you wait just a few more weeks to help lay the framework for an issue that will certainly not die with this one tree. In a town with so few resources, we can ill afford to alienate those who are willing and able to work together to solve a major problem such as that of the maintenance and restoration of the historic cemetery.

Please allow the various groups a bit more time to come to a consensus on the best way to move forward, whether it means that the tree comes down or not. I see this as an opportunity for the town to show how well it can work together as a community to resolve important issues such as maintaining and preserving our heritage and historic landscapes.

Thank you for taking the time to read my letter. I appreciate all the hard work you do for the town and hope that you will take into account the efforts, expertise, and interest of all parties involved. I do not object to the tree being removed if necessary; let us just take a little more time to ensure that that is, indeed, the best next step. The goodwill that compromise can generate can be priceless.