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Removal of oak tree approved at Revolutionary War grave Ashland MA - MetroWest Daily News

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Date: 2021-09-29 19:30:00

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ASHLAND — The Planning Board has voted to allow the Mindess School Building Committee to remove an old oak tree that sits atop the grave of a Revolutionary War soldier near the David Mindess Elementary School.

The board arrived at that decision last week as part of its approval of the Building Committee’s special permit request for the project.

The fate of the oak tree at 90 Concord St., which sits 15 feet behind the school and atop the grave of Revolutionary War soldier Aaron Brown, has become the subject of sometimes heated debate in town. 

The oak tree at the burial site of Aaron Brown, "a soldier of the Revolution" who died of smallpox Jan. 18, 1793, situated behind the Mindess Elementary School, Sept. 2, 2021.

Managers and the architects of the project argue the tree should be chopped down because its roots would be disturbed during construction and there is a 50% chance of the tree dying anyway. To save the tree would cost upwards of seven figures and set the project back a year, according to Michael Quinlan of Compass Project Management and the owner's project manager. 

Oddly, in one of the submitted drawings sent to the Planning Board by Flansburgh Architects this month, there is a note to save the tree. The company has since said that was a mistake.  

Previous story:Ashland residents debate future of oak tree as part of school reconstruction

Residents who opposed removal of the tree have argued that every effort should be made to save it. They say concessions can be made to a project that is projected to cost more than $85 million. 

An arborist with Bartlett Tree Experts who was hired to conduct a review of the tree and site agreed it could not be saved with the construction plan. 

The Planning Board has voted to allow the Mindess School Building Committee to remove the old oak tree standing over the grave of a Revolutionary War soldier near the David Mindess Elementary School.

Conditional plans for the tree

As part of the Planning Board's approval, certain conditions were put in place. Some of those include:

  • The Planning Board is giving the applicant discretion as to whether it will chop down the tree. If it is removed, Massachusetts preservation guidelines for municipally owned historical burial grounds and cemeteries are to be followed. 
  • The tree's wood is to either be incorporated into the architecture of the school or used in conjunction with a memorial, bench or plaque close to the gravesite.
  • Wood from the tree is to be distributed between the School Committee and the Historical Commission to be used on the site. Any that's left over could be used by the town for other projects.

The conditions also provide instructions on what to do in the event additional bodies are found at the school site, as is believed to be the case. 

Town Manager Michael Herbert said he is happy with the Planning Board's decision. While he understands that not everyone else is, he hopes people felt they were heard.

"The main thing that I hope everyone keeps in mind is that just because an individual supports the removal of the tree doesn't mean that they want to dismantle the history of the town," Herbert said. "And similarly, just because someone wants to alter the school plans to maintain the tree, doesn't mean that they are anti-education."

Original Source: https://www.metrowestdailynews.com/story/news/2021/09/29/ashland-ma-board-oks-oak-tree-removal-mindess-school-revolutionary-war-grave-aaron-browne/5785299001/