NEWBURY — It was a honey locust — the kind of broad, deciduous tree with leaves that turn mellow yellow in autumn.
For 23 years, the tree — planted in memory of the late Maude Ryan, a dedicated member of Byfield Community United Methodist Church — grew on town-owned land at the intersection of Moody and Main streets.
The Rev. Russell “Rusty” Davis, who at one time led Sunday School classes for first- and second-graders at the Byfield church, was instrumental in organizing the memorial tree dedication. Davis grew up in Byfield and has served as chaplain of the Newbury Fire Department for 20 years.
That September morning back in 1990, he and a handful of others, including his young students, walked the quarter-mile down the road from the church to the intersection to oversee the planting of the honey locust, donated by the former Cherry Hill Nursery in West Newbury specifically for the occasion.
So imagine Davis’ surprise when he recently discovered that the tree was unceremoniously pulled out from its roots.
“Since when is the Town of Newbury in the business of taking down memorial landmarks?” Davis, who now serves as pastor of the Methodist churches in Newburyport and Salisbury, asked in a recent posting on Facebook.
But town officials say the demise of the tree is one of several changes that residents can expect as traffic safety improvements are implemented in Byfield Center.
Town planner Martha Taylor said the intersections at Moody, Main and Church streets, at Lunt and Main streets by the Mini Mart and at Central and Church streets were all identified as hazards in a road safety audit conducted in May 2010.
“Every intersection will have to change,” Selectman Chuck Bear said.
The audit, which was commissioned in response to safety concerns from some Byfield residents, involved representatives from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, the transportation planning firm Howard/Stein-Hudson as well as transportation staff from the Merrimack Valley Planning Commission.