WESTFIELD – The proposed Western Avenue project is raising concerns about the number of trees to be cut down and replaced.
The project is designed to improve traffic flow on Western Avenue, at the beginning of Mill Street, to Bates Road. The preliminary designs include adding traffic signals and new crosswalks; making wider shoulders to accommodate bicyclists; improving sidewalks, utilities and drainage; and designating left-hand turn lanes into side streets, as well as entrances to Stanley Park and the Woodward Center.
The project plans presented at a November 14 informational meeting projected a dozen or so trees to be taken down but, according to city engineer Mark Cressotti, “the design is in the early stages and as it changes it may reduce or increase the number”. In relation to other projects, Cressotti said that many “have seen a three to one ratio, three planted for every one removed”, and that the Western Avenue proposed construction plan will likely see the same ratio.
As a result of one of the city’s most recent reconstruction projects, involving Park Square including Broad, Elm, and Main streets, around 13 mature trees were removed and over 30 new trees of a different species were planted. Although the city planted more trees than they cut down during the construction process, these new trees were planted incorrectly. City Councilor Brian Sullivan, also a member of the Natural Resources Subcommittee, said that “the trees on the green were planted too deep for best growing practices”, and needed to be fixed.
ISA Certified Arborist Cynthia Hartdegen stated that an incorrectly planted tree will “only live a few years, when a properly planted tree can live decades”. In order for a tree to be properly planted and to thrive, it must be planted in a certain type of soil, as well as at a specified depth, depending on what type of tree it is.
Karen Leigh, Westfield’s Conservation Coordinator, stated that “Municipalities tend to plant the exact same tree species and ages with uniformity” so that “tree lined streets will look the same”. Although this is usually the case, Leigh states that “it is much better economically and environmentally to plant a variety of species and ages” due to the fact that if a certain species becomes diseased, the city would not then have to take on the task of replanting all those trees at the same time.
There will likely be numerous public hearings on the Western Avenue project before plans are finalized, although the next meeting has not been announced at press time.
To see the plans for Western Avenue, Court Street, and Bates Road, click here.