Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Trees - A Plan for Maynard

Postcard of tree-lined streets (maples and elms), circa 1900
Earlier this year, Maynard contracted with Davey Resource Group Inc (DRG) to conduct an inventory of town-owned trees along streets, in parks, at the cemetery, etc., and then recommend a prioritized maintenance schedule for future tree care. The resultant report, titled Tree Resource Management Plan, dated July 2020, is available at the town’s website under Public Works (DPW), Cemetery and Parks Division. The gist of the report is that Maynard has too high a percentage of one genus of trees (maple) and is skewed toward too many mature trees and not enough young trees. Also, there are many town-owned sites suitable for trees that are empty. The DRG report included recommendations that Maynard plant approximately 400 trees a year for at least the next five years. And estimated that proper tree management will cost on the order of $250,000 per year.

Recommendations are that for an urban or suburban community, no one species make up more than 10 percent of the tree population, and no genus more than 20 percent. Glenwood Cemetery is a special case, as after the hurricane of 1938 killed most of the original plantings circa 1870, the near-majority replacement was with sugar maple. For all of Maynard’s public spaces the inventory is 25 percent Norway maple, 43 percent for all species of maple. Note that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has deemed Norway maple an invasive species and has banned it sale or distribution. Existing trees are allowed to continue to exist.

Tree stump, Nason Street
The tree-planting recommendation of 2,000 trees over five years stems from the inventory study showing that roughly 40 percent of sites suitable for trees are either vacant, or occupied by a stump, dead tree or dying tree. The recommended total also included an estimate for trees apparently health now but will die before the five-year planting period. Appendix D lists short, medium and large trees that are suitable to plant in central New England.    

Separate from what the town can do, property owners should consider planting trees on their own property. Too often, home owners remove trees that are dead, dying, or just too big for the space they occupy, yet do not take action to add trees. Trees have economic, environmental and social value. Realtors estimate that properties with mature trees command a premium sale price. Shade trees on the south and west side can reduce energy costs. Trees and shrubs reduce stormwater water run-off and absorb pollutants from the air. Trees dampen noise, and provide habitat for wildlife. Lastly, research has shown that adequately treed neighborhoods improve mental and physical health when compared to tree-barren areas.       

Insects, both native and invasive, can be tree killers. For much of the past decade, Maynard’s birch and maple trees suffered from winter moths consuming leaves in early spring. The presence of this pest has been diminished recently via introduction of species-specific parasites. Gypsy moth caterpillars have been harsh on oaks especially, but also maple and other species. Spotted lanternfly is an invasive species that has not yet reached eastern Massachusetts.    

European copper beech on Acton Street may be
the largest tree in Maynard. (click to enlarge)
The largest tree in Maynard (not meaning the tallest) appears to be a European copper beech (also known as purple beech) on the west side of Acton Street.  Size is officially calculated as a ‘tree points’ number from girth in inches plus height in feet plus 0.25 times average spread in feet. The tree’s girth is 252 inches. Conservatively estimating height and span both at 60 feet yields a tree points number of 327. While arguably the largest tree, probably not the oldest. Copper beeches were first offered for sale in the U.S. circa 1820, and not widely available until 1850s. Although this tree and the copper beech on St. Bridget’s property are impressive, there are likely native sugar maples that are older.   

Not in the newspaper column:

1912: Maynard had a Moth Department to combat gypsy and browntail moths

1938: Hurricane knocked down hundreds of trees, including spruce trees in Glenwood Cemetery, replaced by sugar maples

1941: Elm tree designated as the state tree; plantings promoted

1960s: Dutch Elm Disease kills hundreds of elm trees

1960s: Multi-year drought contributed to death of hundreds of trees, mostly maple

1967: Conservation Commission established

1970s: DPW budget for purchasing trees less than $1,000/year

1999: Maynard qualifies to be a Tree City USA (needs annual renewal)

2018: Creation of Rail Trail included removal of >650 trees that were at least 4” diameter


  1. There was an absolutely massive tree on Tremont st in front of house #21 up until it was cut down around 8 years ago. The stump still exists, hopefully I'm not exaggerating too much but I think it must have a 3.5' or 4' diameter. The tree significantly buckled the adjacent sidewalk. Very very tall pines exist on Lindberg street, hope they don't fall down anytime soon, they could be very destructive to the properties in that area. Supposedly (per my old neighbors) Tremont street used to be an amazing tunnel of trees overhanging the road on either side, but many have been cut down or fallen down over the last few decades.

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