Dead tree in Tisbury on State Road whittled down by storm

This is what the tree looked like in July. — File photo by Ralph Stewart

A dead tree on State Road near Vineyard Haven’s Main Street that town officials feared would fall down or come down in pieces during a storm got whittled down last weekend during Hurricane Irene’s tropical storm force winds.

Before the next big blow arrives, however, the tree should be gone, according to Joe Grillo, whose property the tree is on. “It was scheduled to be removed before the storm, but the tree service couldn’t get to it,” Mr. Grillo said in a phone message left at The Times yesterday. “But they are planning on doing that sometime in the near future.”

The 45-foot tree began dying about four or five years ago, according to Mr. Grillo. In July he told The Times he had made inquiries over the winter about the cost for the tree’s removal. Since the tree straddles his and other properties, Mr. Grillo said he wanted confirmation from town or state officials about whether it was on his property and his responsibility, before he paid for its removal.

At that time, Tisbury department of public works director Fred LaPiana said the town had already been in contact with state officials about the tree’s removal because of concerns that it would pose a hazard to motorists and pedestrians during a storm. Since the tree overhangs a state road and is on the highway department’s overlay, Mr. LaPiana said he thought its removal was the responsibility of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s (MassDOT) Highway District Five office in Taunton, which oversees maintenance of state roads and properties on Martha’s Vineyard.

In a follow-up phone conversation yesterday, Mr. LaPiana told The Times the District Five office put the ball back in Mr. Grillo’s court with a letter dated July 29.

“District 5 investigated and determined that the tree is located on private property and is not the responsibility of MassDOT to remove,” the letter stated. “Please make arrangements to remove this tree in the near future as it may pose a hazard to roadway users.”

Mr. LaPiana said he suggested to Mr. Grillo that he contact the District 5 office to discuss whether the state might be willing to help him with the tree removal expense.