W.T. Rich Company contractors at the Tisbury School this morning prepared to cut down three trees on Spring Street at the back side of the school that had been slated for removal, but were met with pushback from an upset woman standing in front of one of the trees with two large forks and pleading that it be spared.
Tisbury Police responded to the site to find 83-year-old Anna Edey, who police said had been standing in front of the healthiest of the three trees at the corner of the gym and vocalizing her displeasure with the process of removal. According to Tisbury Police Chief, Chris Habekost, Edey said she was holding up the carving forks for her own protection. Habekost described these forks as “the type you would use when carving a turkey,” explaining that the sharp end is only a couple inches long. Habekost added that Edey was “very emotional and upset regarding the removal of the tree.”
Sgt. Max Sherman was able to talk to Edey for about 30 minutes to hear her concerns and calm her down, at which point Edey had already put the forks into her bag. According to Habekost and Sherman, it can be understood that Edey was concerned these trees were being preemptively cut down because the town is about to hold a special town meeting set for Sept 20, where voters will be asked to fork over an additional $26 million for the school’s renovation and addition project. Given that it’s not known if voters will support the additional borrowing, details of the Tisbury School’s renovation project in regards to borrowing additional funding will come down to a town vote. Because of this, Edey thought the contractors might wait to cut down the trees until more decisions were made.
“Once we arrived on the scene we were able to speak with [Edey] and advise her there is a different route we can take,” one that would protect both her and everyone else involved, said Sherman. From the 30 minute conversation, Sherman learned that Edey’s distress also comes from her work in green initiatives and environmental protection, saying that she was “hoping for a better solution.” Habekost also told The Times Edey had mentioned to Sherman that, while she is 83 years old, those trees are around 84 years old.
At the end of the conversion, Sherman facilitated a conversation between the contractor foreman, John DeBettencourt, and Edey. Sherman said they had a pleasant conversion, shaking hands at the end and agreeing that the one of the three trees Edey was especially keen about protecting would not be cut down at this time.
During Tuesday’s Tisbury School Board meeting, committee chair Amy Houghton responded to questions asked about the tree removal. She said the three trees, two of which were taken down Thursday, infringed on a fencing requirement for the new school for student safety. Houghton also responded to concerns by telling the crowd one of the goals of the construction would be to replace these trees.
The Times also spoke with Edey who was eager to talk about the school’s plan for construction, calling the price “abominable” and the design “energy inefficient,” adding how “we can’t do that in these days where we are now with global warming, we just can’t do that anymore.” According to Edey, she has been advocating for alternative options at Tisbury School Committee meetings and has even spent the last four years designing an alternative construction plan that is more of a “community design.” Edey adds that she has been a solar designer since 1978, and is confident her plan would be half the cost and time, and “a much better school.” Edey is hoping the meeting on Sept. 20 ends in a ‘no’ vote from Tisbury residents.
At Tuesday’s school committee meeting, Aug. 9, Edey convinced W.T. Rich contractors to hold off the tree removal for at least a day, postponing the construction from Wednesday to Thursday morning at around 7:30 am. Edey said she was a little too late, arriving at 8 am, the contractors already started on one of the trees. But with the third tree Edey stood in front of, she said the contractors said they are, “saving that for [her].”
In Edey’s account of Thursday morning at the school, she said she was “begging, requesting, pleading” with the contractors to save the trees, screaming and crying in protest. From the response she got from DeBettencourt and Sherman, however, she noted how kind the gentlemen were toward her, giving her their contacts in case she wanted to talk more.
Edey said the old oak trees are not rotting, as said to be by the contractors, but rather that it is normal for all old oaks to have large holes for squirrels and such and that they are “completely healthy.” Joel Clements, one of the contractors on the scene, shared a picture of the first tree taken down, featuring the large and disputed hole. He briefly spoke with The Times this morning, saying in fact that the tree is very rotted and sent the picture, included with this article, to prove it.
This isn’t the first time tree removal has come under question. In December of 2021, there was some back and forth surrounding a sizable elm tree on 55 West William St., across the street from the Tisbury School and where WT Rich is staging its equipment for the project. Tisbury officials said the tree needed to come down, but that decision sparked disappointment from the community, including Martha’s Vineyard Commission member Linda Sibley.