Thursday, 4 June 2009

‘Save the tree’ petition in Brewster

[In Brewster, as in Budleigh Salterton, trees are a much-loved part of the landscape and the proposal to remove one particularly cherished specimen is meeting with opposition].

It was Joyce Kilmer who wrote, “I think that I shall never see, a poem lovely as a tree,” but a petition, while not as lovely either, may spare one particular tree.

At least that’s the hope of a group that gathered on Memorial Day beneath the 70-foot white spruce on the traffic island at the intersection of Satucket and Stony Brook roads in Brewster.

They were collecting signatures in opposition to the town’s plan to chop Brewster’s unofficial Christmas tree as part of a redesign of the intersection and Stony Brook mill site.

“I want to preserve Cape Cod,” declared Chris Nolin. “I’m a young guy of 27 but I’ve been coming out to Cape Cod since I was little and that’s why I moved out here. I feel very strongly about preserving old Cape Cod and Brewster. That whole area has a certain charm.”

Nolin lives within walking distance of the intersection. He relocated to Brewster a few years ago and was moved to organize the petition drive after selectmen voted last Monday to proceed with the work. Brewster has a state grant to fix storm runoff problems and wants to take advantage of the opportunity to make the mill site area safer and to provide more on site parking.

The parking and site design has been redone by Stearns and Wheeler, environmental engineers, and Brewster will hold a public hearing on the plan Monday at 7:05 p.m. as part of the board of selectmen’s meeting.

“That tree has been there 60 years,” Nolin noted. “When I was out there yesterday talking with people and people were signing the petition and telling me stories, there were people with young grandkids now who remembered coming out and singing carols around the tree.”

“One man told me that when the lights are lit up he passes by the tree every day at the end of work and looks forward to it. Something as small as that is why this has so much power,” he added.

Nolin obtained more than 100 signatures in an hour and a half.
“We had overwhelming support, absolutely overwhelming,” said Nolin. “People came out. They stopped cars and pulled over to the side of the road and said thank you for doing this. All the stories, thumbs ups and all the people honking their horns – it was great feedback.”

He plans to canvas the Stony Brook area for more signatures and perhaps hold a small event to gather more support. Interested people can e-mail him at
“Right now, it’s informal,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of numbers and names and I intend to form a small group.”

Creating a T-bone intersection should improve safety and was to allow for up to 25 parking spaces instead of the current nine. That number has been trimmed in the new design as a plot of grass will break up the parking. There was concern about people crossing the road and emptying out of buses.

The town would replace the tree, at a new location to the left of the intersection, and eliminate the island.

“What we’re trying to do is maintain the character of the roads but improve the safety aspect,” said Police Chief Richard Koch at last Monday’s hearing. “I don’t want to wait until somebody is killed there before we make some changes.”

“The main problem is safety and I get that,” Nolin conceded. “But I was there for a couple of hours (Memorial Day) and there was nothing close to an accident. I’m down there all the time when the herring are running and the most I’ve seen is a little fender bender when someone is backing out.”

He pointed out that the tree has been there half a century or more without serious incident.

“As long as you stop at the stop sign, you can see perfectly clear,” Nolin noted. “People do like to roll through the stop sign but if they’re responsible drivers, there’s no problem at all.”

The tree is considered too big and old to move successfully, and other designs preserving it would cut into the hillside and require a retaining wall and reduce the parking. But Nolin doesn’t want to see that many more spaces.

“Up to 25 spaces, that will destroy the charm and history,” he opined. “This is something that’s historic and beautiful and they’re turning it into another tourist trap. There is no need for 25 additional spaces.”

Text credit: Rich Eldred, reprinted with permission from The Cape Codder newspaper, Orleans, Massachusetts USA;

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