Beetles are Bad News for Tree-Lined Streets

By Scott J. Croteau
Worcester, MA (March 11, 2010)- A stroller sat this week in front of the Spauldings’ Coventry Road home. Earlier, the children took a ride through the neighborhood, donning hats to shield themselves from the sun. The family knows the warmer weather is coming. They know the sun will bear down on them after their street lost its tree-lined landscape because of the Asian longhorned beetle eradication effort and the December 2008 ice storm.

“I think it’s sad because we no longer have our foliage for the fall. It’s depressing,” Kara A. Spaulding said at her 19 Coventry Road home. “One of the reasons we bought this house was because of the tree-lined streets.” In their backyard, a tarp covers the children’s play area. “It’s brighter, less raking,” Mr. Spaulding said, a little sarcasm in his voice.
The Burncoat Street area of the city was hit hard during the December 2008 ice storm and by the eradication of the nasty little Asian longhorned beetle.
People living in that area of the city were shown before and after pictures of their streets recently. Many didn’t even have to look at the pictures to reflect on their new landscape. “It looks naked,” said Joyce Blondin, as she looked around the neighborhood from her 17 Bourne St. home. “You can just see everything now. I don’t like it actually.”
On Sunday she had just finished cleaning up the dirt and trash that blew down the street and onto her lawn. Some new saplings have been planted on her street, but she knows it will take time to replace the large trees that once flourished in her neighborhood. “I see trees being planted here and there. I’m sure they won’t be too big too soon,” she said.
Earlier this month, city officials said they hope by the end of next year all public trees lost to the beetle or the ice storm will be replaced. An estimated 2,400 street trees and 23,624 trees on private property throughout the city were lost. By the end of 2011, the city plans to replant 2,400 shade trees.
Putting his dog in his truck, 28-year-old Rob Mercurio of 2 Bourne St. said he notices the difference on his street, especially while walking his pooch. “Down here there were probably a good five to 10 trees, big trees,” he said. “In the summertime, it is going to be extra hot. Those trees cast a lot of shade. They drifted over the whole street.”
Pointing down toward Bourne Street and Watson Avenue, 52-year-old Joseph Sullivan of 34 Coventry Road said he felt awful for the people living on the other side of Burncoat Street. “We feel lucky compared to other neighborhoods,” he said. “We kept some of our trees. That side of Burncoat, they just took everything. People got upset.”
Living on the road for 20 years, Mr. Sullivan recalls the 6-foot-high pile of timber on his front lawn during the ice storm. The two maples in his backyard are gone. He looked at the newer trees planted around his neighborhood. “I think they did what they could do to put the trees in,” he said. “It will never be the same, not in my lifetime.”
Several people interviewed said they understood the reasons for taking down the trees. On the Coventry Road and Brighton Road side of Burncoat Street, many residents said they saw the devastation across the way and decided they weren’t going to let trees be taken down without reason.
Standing outside their 41 Brighton Road home, Ana and Joshua Leet wondered what the change of landscape is doing for property values. “Some people who were planning on selling their house were irritated, from what I heard,” Mr. Leet said.
The same concern about property values was voiced by Mrs. Spaulding. “You are not sure about your house value now. It is what it is, I guess,” she said. Mrs. Leet looked at some before and after photographs and sarcastically commented, “Isn’t it wonderful? I grew up a couple streets away and the reason why we moved back to this neighborhood was because of the trees. It kind of gives you that suburban feeling in the city,” she said. “The trees are beautiful and they were around for 30, 40, 50 years. These little ones are going to take forever to get big again. I’m happier that they put some smaller trees in, period, but I’d be happier with bigger trees.”
Related Resources:
Telegram and Gazette- Beetles are Bad News for Tree-Lined Streets