BOSTON

Hazardous Trees Removed From VFW Parkway, But Not in Time for One Homeowner

The development comes after an NBC10 Boston investigation revealed the concerning health of trees lining state parkways maintained by the DCR

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On Nov. 8, crews chopped up several trees along VFW Parkway and grinded up the limbs in a large machine.

Before coming down, the trunks of the trees lining the historic Boston roadway had been painted with a red dot, signifying they posed a high risk of falling and needed to be removed.

The development came after an NBC10 Boston investigation revealed the concerning health of trees lining state parkways maintained by the Department of Conservation and Recreation.

However, the November tree removal work did not happen soon enough for a West Roxbury family, who had a tree fall into their home when a storm rolled through the region in late October.

"It was a very rude awakening," said homeowner Kathy Adams. "It was a very, very loud noise. Almost like a locomotive coming through your house."

Adams was jolted from her bed when the tree came crashing down. The limbs damaged the front of the home before landing in the front yard. Adams is thankful it wasn't a direct hit.

Damage to Kathy Adams' home.

"We lucked out," she said. "It could've been right into the house and taken me with it."

Adams later learned the tree that fell had also been marked for removal. She and her husband had noticed the red dot on the bark, but figured the marking was related to some kind of utility project.

Now facing thousands of dollars of damage to her property, Adams is left with a lot of questions as a 40-year resident of VFW Parkway.

A few blocks away, a tree fell harmlessly in the median during the same storm and did not hit any vehicles or block lanes of traffic. A closer look showed the trunk split at the base and was completely rotted and diseased when it failed in the high wind.

"How many more are likely to come down?" Adams wondered. "When are they going to do them? Are they going to take the claim for the property damage or what?"

A tree fell along VFW Parkway during an October storm.

We took that question to the DCR and learned the state agency could pick up the tab for the damage to Adams' home. However, the property owner will first have to file a formal written claim and wait for an answer.

A couple of miles down the road, Jack Flanagan claimed the removal work on Nov. 8 was the first time he has seen a crew proactively take down a tree in his decades of living on VFW Parkway.

As we told you in our original report, Flanagan has been on high alert ever since a tree fell in his driveway and smashed his car in June 2020. He told us he remains unimpressed by effort to take out a handful of hazardous trees.

"I think it was token symbolism because Channel 10 broke the story that they were sitting on a report for two years," Flanagan said.

That 2019 internal report we obtained revealed out of about 10,000 trees surveyed along 14 state parkways, only 2% were in good condition.

Along busy thoroughfares like VFW Parkway, 43% of the trees were rated in poor condition.

The report recommended the removal of more than 1,500 trees.

A DCR spokesperson said that often, identified defects or issues can be reduced or mitigated by pruning. When that is not an option, it is recommended to asses the risk of the tree.

Tree risk depends on many factors, such as species, size, location, structural integrity, root stability and potential targets, the spokesperson said.

Figures we obtained via public records request show 410 dead or hazardous trees were removed in fiscal year 2020. Another 196 trees were taken out in 2021.

Crews removed hazardous trees along VFW Parkway

"My question is, 'When are they going to get around to really being serious and proactive?' Someone is going to get seriously injured or killed," Flanagan said.

Sen. Becca Rausch, who chairs the Legislature's Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture, reacted to the public safety concerns raised by the details of the tree survey last August.

She was among a group of lawmakers who are now trying to earmark a portion of federal COVID relief money coming to Massachusetts for tree maintenance along DCR parkways. The distribution of those funds are still being debated on Beacon Hill.

"It's very important for them to stay on top of this," said Adams, the homeowner with the recent property damage. "These trees, if they're designated to be taken down, they need to be done now and not later."

Ryan Kath can be reached at ryan.kath@nbcuni.com. You can follow him on Twitter or connect on Facebook.

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