, Newburyport, MA

January 12, 2013

Evergreen proposed for Upper Green in limbo

Evergreen proposed for Upper Green in limbo

By Jennifer Solis

---- — NEWBURY — Finding the right home on the Upper Green for a donated evergreen tree is proving a bit prickly.

Selectmen are considering the right spot to plant an evergreen offered by Patty Ross Webster in memory of her father, David Ross. Ultimately, however, they agreed this week to put off a final decision until their Jan. 22 meeting.

The potential tree donation, coupled with a proposal for an art installation to highlight a trash problem in town, has sparked renewed discussions over what should and should not be allowed on the historic spot.

Among the oldest parcels of public land in the area, both the Upper and Lower Greens are located on Route 1A, about 2 miles apart. They were established in Newbury’s early settlement days, the Lower Green in 1635 and the Upper Green a few years later.

Last month, the Historical Commission voted unanimously against adding more trees to the Upper Green.

Selectman David Mountain, who attended the Historical Commission’s Dec. 12 meeting, said on Tuesday that his sense was that vote reflected a desire by the group to keep the historic green “fairly open.”

Fellow Selectman Michael Bulgaris, who said the public tract "is not a training field," proposed using the donated tree to replace an existing Christmas tree on the Upper Green that appears to be in declining health

And Chairman Joe Story said the memorial evergreen could fill the gap left a few years ago when many trees were removed from the Hanover Street side of the Upper Green during a project by National Grid. None of those trees were ever replaced, he said.

The town could also purchase some additional trees for that area with funds provided by the energy company in an account established for tree replacement, Story said.

In each of these cases, the new trees would be replacements, not additions to the Upper Green, selectmen stressed.

Selectmen last month accepted Webster's offer for the evergreen contingent on finding a suitable place for it. The tree is now growing in the yard near her late father's Hay Street home, but it's encroaching on the house. Webster wants to transplant it at no cost to the town.

"It is too nice of a tree to cut down,” she told selectmen then.

Also last month, visual artist Carol Baum proposed installing a 12-by-9-foot, see-through tower on the Upper Green in which she would artistically display trash she found along the town’s roadways. Baum saw it as a creative way to raise public awareness about an ongoing trash problem in town.

But given the importance of the Upper Green to the town, selectmen delayed on voting on the idea until they could get input from the Historical Commission and the Board of Health.

Selectman Geoff Walker has proposed establishing a formal maintenance plan to oversee uses of and structures on the town greens, but the board also has not acted on that suggestion. He has also said a tree fund for the town was established in 2009, but to date nothing has been done with it.