UPDATE: Circuit Ave. work began Tuesday

Trees taken down; expert says town could plant better replacements.



Updated 4 pm

Work on removing trees on Circuit Ave. as part of the Oak Bluffs streetscape project began on Tuesday, Wendy Brough, assistant town administrator, told The Times.

According to Brough, the tree cutting will occupy some of the parking spots on Circuit Ave. for the next three days. The street will remain open during the tree clearing.

An updated schedule of the project is available on the town’s website. The project contractor is Lawrence Lynch.

The trees being removed are Bradford pear trees, and will be replaced with Cleveland select flowering pear trees, according to town highway superintendent Richard Combra Jr. Per the streetscape plans, there are 12 trees being removed, and 14 new trees will be planted in their place.

Bradford and Cleveland select are both cultivars of the Callery pear species of trees native to China. Bradfords became one of the most popular ornamental trees in North America after they were first introduced in the 1950s, but problems with the tree have led horticulturalists toward other options.

Polly Hill Arboretum executive director Tim Boland told The Times both the Bradford and Cleveland select have “immense problems” with their structure that cause them to split and break easily, and there’s been a growing movement among horticulturalists to prohibit them. He also said the tree isn’t something planted for its fragrance.

“They are beautiful in flower, but their flowers smell like a wet dog,” Boland said. “I wouldn’t recommend them … It’s not considered a good tree.”

Boland said he would be happy to work with the town or a committee in finding another species to plant, such as disease-resistant elms, North American red maples, oaks with pyramidal forms that withstand hot temperatures, and even some magnolias.

According to a 2017 article on the history of the Callery pear in Arnoldia, Harvard University’s Arnold Arboretum magazine, the tree was cultivated by gardeners and landscapers for its tolerance and attractiveness, but eventually it became an invasive species.

“Today, the Callery pear story is another example of how even the best of human intentions can go awry,” the Arnoldia article states. “The resulting spread of wild P. calleryana into the American landscape was unanticipated and completely unintentional. The best that we can do today is to view the Callery pear as a lesson on the importance of considering how mixes of ornamental cultivars may contribute to invasive spread of certain species. By learning from our past history, we can better understand why certain species become invasive, and thus we can work more effectively to prevent invasive spread of species in the future.”

Select board member Brian Packish told The Times the Bradford trees being removed are almost 40 years old, and have far outlived their expected lifespan.

The decision to remove the trees was made in collaboration with the streetscape committee, project consultants, and landscape designers, with the goal of putting new trees in their place. 


The Oak Bluffs select board agreed to establish an oversight committee on the streetscape project made up of town administrator Deb Potter, a select board member, Combra, and members of the community.

He said he would ask the town’s project consultant to reach out to Boland about which species could be planted on the street.

“They served us fairly well for 40 years,” Packish said of the Bradford trees. “The other side of that is, the trees haven’t been bought yet. The goal is to keep them small, pruned, and cleaned … We would be foolish to overlook any additional assistance,” Packish said. 

The project’s timeline shows the tree removal will be completed by Monday. Construction materials for the streetscape project are being delivered by the end of the month.

The Islanders Talk Facebook page was flooded with posts of the Bradford pears in bloom during the spring and changing colors in the fall. 

“Sad to see them gone!” Fernando Lana wrote. “Sad day for O.B. and all of M.V.”

Others supported the tree cutting. “Trees have a lifespan, folks. They don’t just grow forever. These particular trees have exceeded their lifespan. Is it smarter to remove them now before they die and cause damage …” Ben DeLong wrote.

Denise Cote-Alwardt posted a photograph of an article in The Grapevine showing the trees being planted in 1980 by high school students.

Speaking to The Times by phone while walking on Circuit Avenue, Oak Bluffs Association executive director Christine Todd said she’s heard mixed reactions from people in the community, but that many businesses supported the streetscape project, and were involved in its design.

“Transition is one of the most painful parts of labor, but if you don’t go through it you’re not gonna have that baby,” Todd jested. “What we’re doing now is creating an opportunity down the road.”

She added that despite the disruption to traffic, shoppers could still access parking spaces and sidewalks for holiday shopping.
The project, which received some significant pushback from residents upset with a move from diagonal to parallel parking, took a significant step last month when the select board awarded a contract for it.

Updated to include comments -Ed.



    • The news just broke that Oak Bluffs is losing its beautiful trees. I would always look forward to the blooming of these in the spring casting its wonderful glow on Circuit Avenue. Owning a building there I felt proud that I lived in a town that was so caring and kind and wise to allow these magnificent trees with places to sit underneath them, in the shade, all summer long.
      The sun would rise in the east and the trees would sit there waiting for it to come up higher so they could bless Circuit Avenue with their magical power – a tribute to the wisdom of past administrations. Now they are lost. We have no more shade, no more sitting under trees as we pet our dog, or talk on our phone, or meet people and have conversations. Our environment and our social lives have just been given the heave-ho for a mistaken notion of progress.
      Stark, barren, treeless, shade-less life is not progress. Circuit Avenue will now take on the character of a community robbed of its most precious commodity – caring about nature.

  1. Looking forward to the new Circuit Ave which will be more friendly to our guests and those who are disabled. As a resident I’m looking forward to more space to walk around those folks strolling around on vacation as I’m doing errands in town! No doubt it’s a win – win for everyone. Thanks for all those enlightened leaders involved in moving this project forward.

  2. relocating the parallel parking to opposite side of circuit ave., as it is on the opposite end of Circuit, could have saved the trees. it is also easier to parallel park looking over your right shoulder than your left. Would have also provided a safety barrier between the “open” game room and moving traffic.

  3. I’m just a yearly visiter, (20 years) but I think what you guys are doing to Circuit Ave. is terrible. The joy of going for coffee or to visit the interesting shops was the pull in parking. When visiting Edgartown one of my anxieties is the parallel parking on the main st.

      • Albert. I think it would be pretty expensive to move the buildings, which they would have to do, to have enough room to allow diagonal parking in Edgartown. Or, we could cut down all the trees and make both sidewalks
        more narrow. But either way, really expensive for little gain.
        O.B. on the other hand is spending a lot of money to have a negative effect.

  4. Hey Oak Bluffs select people & public officials:
    Where is the outrage and blow back about the decimation of the live and healthy (also beautiful !) trees on Circuit Ave ? For the sake of a wider sidewalk and ”maybe” (just maybe) ten additional parallel spaces, we have virtually ruined the character of our quaintest Vineyard town center. Additionally, this poorly conceived, so called civic improvement is contributing blatantly to depreciating our environment……..forever !
    Contrast this highly questionable move with the sleazy and “back door” move to attempt to nullify the new already thoroughly vetted and approved athletic fields @ MVRHS for “the sake of ” our environment. What a dichotomy! Our OB town fathers and other officials are speaking under their breath and out of both sides of their mouth. Shameful ! But not surprising at all.

    • Trees are temporary.
      What is the average age of the trees cut down?
      How many trees has Oak Bluffs planted in the last ten years?
      Where was Eddie’s outrage during the planning process?

    • 12 trees past their expected lifespan have been removed along with their trash-catching planters. 14 new trees will be planted — and, I hope, they will choose non-invasive, native, and hardy species. We also get wider, safer sidewalks. Seems like a net gain to me.

  5. Down go the trees and in goes the cement what a waste. As a traditional august guest to mv I think this is a shame and ruins the island feel circuit ave always has had. Even if you replace the trees you have hurt the ambiance of the vineyard. Instead of parallel parking ban parking and expand lots within walking or shuttle distance.

  6. I am amazed yet again, that having the expertise of a world class arboretum in our midst, public decisions are made as to tree selection without consulting its staff!
    We had the best of thr Bradford pears, let’s be forward thinking about their replacements!

    • If indeed there are “replacements”………………there may not be as history tells us, mid stream designchanges very often happen.

  7. So on top of zero common sense regarding the ridiculous plan for parallel parking on Circuit Ave, now they’re killing trees. This should settle any lingering doubt about the complete insanity of the whole operation.

  8. The opening up of the view down Circuit Ave is amazing. Being able to view the varied historic architecture of the buildings is really cool. Glad it’s no longer blocked by the trees.

  9. I’m curious how many of these negative commenters have actually been on Circuit Ave since yesterday to actually see the new vista.

  10. I think the idea of changing Circuit ave around is not for me to pass judgment on because I am not a resident of OB so don’t have all the facts to make a decision on the matter. What I do find peculiar is the timing of the project at a time when merchants are looking forward to added income from Christmas shoppers. This is when they decide to make it more difficult to park and gain access to do shopping in Oak Bluffs.

    • This project should have been done in July?
      It will Damn lucky if it it done by July.
      How many Christmas shopping stores are open on Circuit Ave.?

  11. People are so scared of change, it’s amusing and frustrating to me. I am certain that the new Circuit Avenue will have plenty of greenery when completed.

  12. Up next: destruction of Healey Square, one of the most vibrant and popular public spaces on the Island. Out go the existing planters that people sit on. Out go the beautiful, mature shrubs that help shade it. Even the memorial to its namesake, David Healy, appears slated for removal. Public input from the zoom meeting I attended was almost 100% against this, yet this is where we are.

    To be fair, the streetscape committee overall has worked hard on this project, and I am sure their intentions are good. There is much to like in it, and some iteration is overdue. Unfortunately, the parking situation has dominated most of the discussion so far, and while not a bad thing, it has left us with much to go over. The choices will weigh hugely in the experience of going downtown.

    One is the composition of the sidewalks, which is some of the most visible part or the work. I have only seen proposed options. Will we get brick, which the town has been working toward since the 1960’s when it was installed in front of the (then) new town hall on OB Ave., later extended across the street around the bank and finally used to splendid effect in the area around Farland Square? One of the options offered is plain concrete, stamped with ersatz seams to look like stone slabs. One option for surfacing Healey Square is a bright blue spiral that, while striking, would be more comfortable in modern Barcelona that Victorian Oak Bluffs (No disrespect intended against that great Catalonian city). When I asked at the recent town meeting what the sidewalks would be made of, I did not get an answer. The current plans say Healey Square will get “pavers.” It doesn’t specify whether they will be brick, concrete, tile, composite, or what the pattern will be.

    Another missing, but vital, detail is the species of tree that will replace the ones just felled on Circuit Ave. As with the case of the sidewalk material (other than curbs) I can’t find the answer on the plans, and only learned of the current choice through this article. I have since studied up on shade tree varieties for public spaces and have learned that while, once popular, the former Bradford Pears, despite their gorgeous blossoms, are now widely discouraged for their invasive quality and propensity to shed limbs. Reading this article, it appears little consideration has been given to whether which species should be planted. As Mr. Boland, an actual expert, points out, the current choice of another Bradford variety is not advisable.

    There should be more public input and discussion regarding all this.

  13. I grew up in southern New Jersey. My mother was “the tree lady” in my little town.
    She wanted more trees in town, so she got donations, volunteers etc. and planted about 200 trees in a one square mile town. I couldn’t have been more proud of her.
    She chose Bradford pears, because of the shade. For about 10 years they seemed very promising, but as soon as they were casting shade, branches started breaking in normal thunderstorms. They got scraggly and appeared ungainly.. Today, – about 45 years after they were planted, most are gone– the others are tolerated.
    I’m no expert on trees, but I have watched the trees grow and die over the course of only 45 years in my home town.

  14. I am stunned by this.
    How is it that just a tiny miniscule minority get to make these huge decisions against the will of the vast majority of the people? Does that seem right and fair?
    This makes me deeply sad, and even more pessimistic about the future of our species – Homo non-sapiens, Homo horribilis. Shame on those of you who made the decision to cut down those truly lovely shade trees – I have always loved them, in all seasons, and I consider them the ideal sidewalk tree. Have they ever been any kind of nuisance on Circuit Ave? Have they been requiring abnormal amounts of pruning and care? And so what if they are “invasive” – this is in the middle of town for God’s sakes. Some of my favorite wildflowers have been declared “invasive”, and are being ripped out – will the English daisy be next?
    You could have left the trees and moved the outer edge of the sidewalk to the street-side of the trees, which would have expanded the sidewalk by 3-4 feet, without cutting the trees.
    Of all the dumb decisions that have been made on this island, this one seems be particularly belligerent bullying.

  15. Where was everyone?
    Geeze? Sleeping? Letting these few
    do this to your town?
    Seven years in the planning? Truly?
    With all that’s swirling with the wind in our world,
    Why was this even on the
    Selectmen s radar?
    I am heart broken the sound of chainsaws were cast upon the ocean Tuesday.,
    When I visit OB
    My granddaughter snd I tool all
    around circuit ave , me pushing her in her blue car..
    We move aside for fellow passers by or visa versa.,
    Everyone says hello and smiles.
    Oh , poor Martha.
    We have to care enough to save her.
    Or we will lose her forever.

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