Woodside residents fight to save memorial tree

Island Elderly Housing says tree is in the way of walkway and septic.

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Petitioners are attempting to spare this memorial tree at Island Elderly Housing's Woodside Village. - Rich Saltzberg

Updated June 22

Residents of Woodside Village, an Island Elderly Housing complex behind the YMCA, are trying to stop a Norway fir planted as a memorial from being cut down by management. In a June 19 petition, over three dozen residents argue the tree, which they say was planted in 1997 in memory of Gladys Caron, should be retained.

Island Elderly Housing executive director Dorothy Young said she remembers when the tree was planted in 1997, three years after the building nearby was erected. She said the tree is in an area slated for a new handicap walkway, and must be taken down to make way for it. She said residents were informed of the plan to remove the tree in the June edition of the housing newsletter, Village Voice.

Island Elderly Housing maintenance director Greg Monka said the exposed roots of the tree pose a trip hazard, and also threaten a nearby leach field. After the tree is removed, more modest plantings will be installed along with the walkway, he said. Monka also noted Bob Hagerty of Hagerty Tree told him the tree should come down. 

On behalf of Bob Hagerty, Grace Hagerty said Bob said no such thing. “He never suggested to take it down, ever,” she said. Hagerty said Hagerty Tree was told the tree must be removed for reasons related to the walkway and the septic system. She said Monka called multiple times, indicating the tree needs to be removed. 

Bob Hagerty’s alleged position on the tree was published in the Village Voice.

“Bob Hagerty, a Massachusetts certified arborist, look[ed] at the tree and determined that it really should be taken down,” the newsletter states.

Grace Hagerty said Hagerty Tree cannot control what Island Elderly Housing publishes. 

She also said they nearly came to do the job, but were called off. “We were on our way there [Thursday],” she said Friday morning. She said they got a call from folks at Island Elderly Housing, indicating residents were upset and to hold off for now. 

“We don’t want to upset anybody,” Hagerty said. “We’ll put it on hold for now.”

Monka said it was his recollection Hagerty said the tree should come down when he came to give an estimate in late winter. He thought it was also reflected in his notes, but could not locate such an entry. He said he has tapped another arborist to evaluate the tree. 

Young said the next plantings will make up for the loss of the tree, and serve as a remembrance for Caron, who, she said, also has a plaque in the building, on a wall tablet. She said the tree blocks the way to the community vegetable garden, which just got a major fence renovation from board member Cole Powers. She said she expects the new walkway will make the path to the community vegetable garden a much safer walk. 

The petitioners say the tree isn’t hampering the leach field, and that its roots suck up excess moisture. They demand a democratic vote to decide the fate of the tree. 

It’s unclear whether management will accede to such a vote, or just take down the tree. Simone DeSorcy, chair of the IEH board, could not be immediately reached for comment. 

Stephen (“Lens”) Blodgett, a Woodside resident, who started the petition, said some topsoil will cover the exposed roots, and he claimed another septic servicer said the tree isn’t a threat to the leach field; the leach field is a threat to itself because it’s old. He said the tree was enjoyed by a lot of people, and should stay. 

Updated to clarify the position of Hagerty and to add more information. –Ed. 

8 COMMENTS

  1. Have a tree company dig it up and replant it. It happens all the time around here. It mean A LOT to people.

  2. Plan the walkway around the tree.
    Many landscape designers say that roads and walkways generally are more attractive and inviting if they are not straight lines. Thus, the tree can be a feature of a curve in the walkway that goes around it. The walkway could even contain a section that actually is built around the tree, like a roundabout.
    Another idea: A bench could be placed near the tree so that residents can enjoy being near it. This would be a health enhancer. Also, an “invitation” for residents to sit a bit longer in the sun and soak up the sun’s rays and store vitamin D.
    Is there any imagination out there?
    The tree is an asset, not a problem.

  3. I visited a friend past summer at IEH and remember that lovely majestic Norway Spruce. It’s a gorgeous “specimen” tree worth a small fortune that anyone would be proud to own on their property. This should be the centerpiece of this complex with the new proposed walkway circling it. Whoever this maintenance man is should be terminated for outright stupidity. Can’t believe that anyone would want to kill a majestic expensive tree in its prime and desecrate the memory of the fine lady who left it in her memory. Has the management at IEH no shame or morality? What about the family she left behind? Their lack of consideration for them seems almost criminal.

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