Power company removes trees; Barrington may replant


A stump nearly three feet in diameter is all that remains of a mammoth maple tree that used to stand near the intersection of Middle Highway and Federal Road in Barrington.

Years ago, officials from the state deemed the tree valuable enough to preserve during a sidewalk installation project along Middle Highway. They designed the walkway around the tree, looping the concrete path away from the thick trunk before continuing down along the edge of the road.

But earlier this month, workers from a tree company hired by National Grid cut down the maple. They also removed other maples and oaks along Washington Road and Lincoln Avenue. Some of the trees were impressive in stature and girth, but all, said a spokesperson from National Grid, were either "damaged, diseased, dead or dying."

According to National Grid's Debbie Drew, the work was conducted as part of the company's hazard tree removal program.

"The trees along the state roads were pretty damaged during the severe storms we had, and they're in pretty bad shape — damaged, diseased, dead or dying," she said. "In that condition they pose a threat to power lines and to the public as well."

Ms. Drew said officials from National Grid contacted the Rhode Island Department of Transportation, which oversees maintenance of trees along state roadways. Middle Highway, Lincoln Avenue and Washington Road are all state roads.

"We have to get permission from the state and from private property owners if the trees are on private property," Ms. Drew said.

Heidi Gudmundson, a spokesperson for the DOT, confirmed the fact that National Grid approached the DOT to conduct the tree work.

"This is something that's been going on for years," she said. "Every time they want to touch state property they come to us. They have their own arborist as well."

Ms. Gudmundson said that a DOT arborist checked out the maple at the intersection of Middle Highway and Federal Road — the tree stood on the western side of the intersection near the St. Andrew's Farm soccer field — and deemed the tree unsafe.

"This particular tree was dropping limbs and was showing its age," she said. "We did our evaluation and granted permission."

Ms. Drew said she could understand if some people in town were saddened by the loss of large trees, but emphasized the need to prioritize safety. In this case, she said people could be harmed by dangerous trees as well as inconvenienced by the loss of electricity should a limb knock out power lines during a storm.

Alan Corvi, the director of the Barrington Department of Public Works, said the town has its own tree crew but was not involved with the recent work. He said the tree removal process usually follows tree-trimming conducted by power company subcontractors.

Barrington Town Manager Peter DeAngelis said the town has a small budget for tree replacements, about $2,500 annually are allotted to buy and install trees on town property. He said would consider replacing some of the trees that were removed, although he tends not to have trees replanted under power lines.

"We try to replace trees that are compatible with the road," he said.

Mr. DeAngelis said the town has been opting to plant Bradford pear trees. He said those trees show good resistance to salting, which takes place along roadways during winter months.

"We've been shying away from maples," he said, adding that disease damaged many of the Norway maples in town.


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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.