McCARTER TREES GETTING AXED FOR SAFETY

fh-treesWorkers at McCarter Park Wednesday load a truck with one of the many trees being removed this week. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

The scene at Fair Haven’s McCarter Park is something like an environmentalist’s nightmare: Big, gas-guzzling trucks getting loaded up with freshly chopped-down trees.

Yes, it’s an unfortunate sight, but it’s going to get better, says Elizabeth Lilleston, chairwoman of the Shade Tree Commission.

The long-planned rejuvenation project is being done this week for safety reasons, and all the trees being removed will be replaced, Lilleston told redbankgreen. McCarter Park is directly across from Viola L. Sickles School and has a popular playground. The chance of a tree limb falling and hitting somebody has been a concern for a while, she said.

“We’re not taking them out because we want to, but we’re taking them out because they’re a safety issue,” she said. “A lot of damage has been done to these trees.”

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A pile of tree portions at McCarter Park. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi)

Lilleston said years of abuse from nor’easters, snow storms and heavy winds have done a number on the variety of deciduous trees at the park. Most can and will be salvaged through pruning, but others — “numerous trees,” Lilleston said — had to get the ax.

Literally. All week workers have been out at the park cutting down trees previously deemed unfit by a certified tree expert who was brought in for the first phase of the rejuvenation project to assess the area.

The pruning and removal of the trees is the second phase and the third, the re-planting of trees, should take place shortly after the current work is complete, which should be in a week or so. The entire project is being funded through a $25,000 state grant, Lilleston said.

With a wealth of nature enthusiasts in town, the decision by the committee to do the project hasn’t been the most popular, Lilleston said. However, she said there really was no other choice, and the commission went on an information campaign in the weeks leading up to the project — which was originally slated for February but delayed by nasty weather  — to let neighbors and residents know what was going to happen and why. School children were sent home with letters about the project, it was written about more than once in the borough newsletter and residents near the park were notified in person, Lilleston said.

“We’ve done the best we could. We know people will get upset. That’s why we went out of our way to tell people,” she said.

Still, there’s been some grousing. Lilleston said she’s heard a couple people complain and knows of at least one instance where a woman took her gripes to borough hall. redbankgreen, too, received an e-mail expressing concerns about the project, which Lilleston says she understands. But, she added, the choices were limited.

“This, unfortunately is the unhappy part,” she said.”We’re doing the right thing. We’re doing the only thing we can do. As the Shade Tree Commission, that’s our job in town, is to take care of these trees and unfortunately is the unpopular thing to do right now.”