|Pittsfield Commission Supports Park Square Tree Plan|
|By Brittany Polito, iBerkshires Staff|
11:33AM / Tuesday, January 24, 2023
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Tree talk resumed last Tuesday as the Parks Commission looked into the future of Park Square's canopy.
The panel endorsed a plan to remove four trees and plant seven, including an evergreen that will serve as the city's permanent Christmas tree.
"Park Square of course is the iconic center of our town," Park, Open Space, and Natural Resource Program Manager James McGrath said.
"There is a tree canopy on Park Square which over time is compromised by its age and other factors — soil compaction, some disease, maybe perhaps air quality around the very congested Park Square."
These factors have led to a decline in tree health and the city has hired Berkshire Design Group to develop a plan to address it.
Of the 13 trees in the park's boundaries, a pear tree and three sugar maple trees are dead or in poor condition will be removed and the remaining seven will be pruned, thinned, or air-spaded.
These trees are sugar maples and red oaks.
Two weeping flowering cherry trees will be transported to the east garden area of the park.
For plantings, the city is seeking to add four hackberry trees, a sweet gum tree, and a permanent Christmas tree. At a later date, there are plans to replace a historic elm tree in phase two of the project.
The evergreen will possibly be a Colorado blue spruce.
McGrath pointed out that there have been various conversations about planting the holiday tree in Park Square, as finding a tree has gotten increasingly harder over the years.
"I think the time is now to do it," he said.
"The annual effort to find a tree, get that tree pulled out for the crane, transport it, put the lights on it, it's annually a big deal just to get that through Park Square and because of some of the tree issues we've had over the years, the way we have to cable that tree looks a lot different now."
He believes that there is support from both the commission and the community.
"I think that certainly, the commission is receptive to that idea," McGrath added.
"I think the community would be as well."
If all goes well, the tree will be planted and ready for lights by the holiday season. It will be a bit smaller at 15 to 20 feet in height but just as good-looking and less labor-intensive, he said.
Phase 2 of the project, which is not being addressed at this time, involve replacing the iconic elm tree at that was planted in the 1990s to emulate an elm that was admired by Pittsfield residents in the city's early days.
McGrath said it was a very handsome tree but split down the middle last year and had to be removed.
"The idea is that we use the same location and replant the elm tree there," he said.
"It's a little bit more tricky because it's a pretty big stump, there are pavers right up to the edge of the stump, so everything would have to be peeled back and that stump would have to be carefully excavated because there is sidewalk all around it and then we would have to carefully plant a new tree and then put the pavers back."
It is a much more involved endeavor that may be a CPA project part two, McGrath added, but it is something that the city would love to do.
He did find out that an organization called Pittsfield Tree Watch would like to gift the city with nearly $1,000 to purchase the elm tree when the time comes.
In other news, the commission received an update on various park projects that are in progress.
The city is $70,000 short for its project to make the restrooms at Deming Park handicap accessible. A funding application to the state's office of disabilities was not accepted and the city is working with the Office of Community Development to access Community Development Block Grant funds with the hope to have the restrooms constructed this season.
The Springside Pond restoration is still in federal permitting and has contracted to have a third-party estimator access the cost. The project has been earmarked $650,000 from the American Rescue Plan Act committee.
Final draft plans for the city's pickleball court in Springside Park will be ready by this week. They will be reviewed by the city and the pickleball committee and will be brought back before the commission in its February meeting. The courts are expected to be ready by the end of the summer.
Last week the Wahconah Park Restoration Committee met its owner's project manager, whose first order of business is to help hire an architect through a designer selection RFP process mandated by the state.
Progress has been slowed with the Springside Park pump track proposal as the city attempts to settle on an agreement with the New England Mountain Biking Association. There is some concern over the organization's lack of responsiveness over the last several months but the project has not been kicked to the curb. It was noted that the city is making sure to protect itself in the agreement that puts all of the park maintenance on NEMBA.