, Newburyport, MA

Local News

February 18, 2013

A matter of aesthetics

Officials debate if trash tower is right for town green

NEWBURY — Town officials aren’t turning up their noses to public art made of trash, but it appears they’d prefer not to see that type of creative expression on historic town land.

The Board of Selectmen last week leaned toward history and aesthetics in their consideration of a proposal to erect a 12-foot trash tower on the town’s Upper Green.

Newbury visual artist Carol Baum is seeking to artistically fill her tower throughout the year with trash she collects on her daily walks around town.

When Baum first presented the idea last December, selectmen encouraged her to run the concept by the town’s Conservation Commission, Board of Health and Historical Commission.

Armed with nods from the conservation and health boards as well as the building inspector, Baum returned to selectmen last week. The Historical Commission, meanwhile, ruled her project “had merit,” but didn’t want to see it on the historic green.

That seemed to be the consensus of selectmen, too, who were quick to praise Baum for finding a creative solution that aims to challenge people into thinking twice before they litter.

Baum’s tower would be comprised of a cedar wood frame and “windows” made of clear polycarbonate sheets and occupy a 9-square-foot area of the green. An informational board created by Triton High School students would be erected nearby and delineate how long it takes different types of trash to decompose.

“Will a trash tower and a poster change people’s behavior? The hope is it will,” Baum said.

But Selectman Geoff Walker said if he had to vote last week, he’d oppose Baum’s plan on the basis of aesthetics.

“The green has a feeling for me that is different,” said Walker, who also worried about setting a precedent.

“Once you start having trash towers, what’s next?” he said. “Pretty soon, we could have a pretty eclectic (town) green.”

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