WENHAM — After years of planning to build a war memorial downtown, town officials are ready to break ground. But now the debate has shifted to 12 pine trees slated to be cut down.
Removal of the trees at the corner of Main and Arbor streets is recommended by the memorial planners and by a previous downtown master plan. A local tree company has even volunteered to chop them down during the off-season.
Peter Hersee, co-chairman of the War Memorial Committee, said that while the trees provide a windbreak, they are not much to look at. And pine trees, in general, are brittle and break often, he said.
“They really should be taken down so we can have an open area to add deciduous or conifers at a later date,” he said. “We feel it is time to get the trees out the way and go on with our duty to erect that monument.”
Removal of the trees is not needed for construction to start, he said, but it would cost more to remove them after the memorial is in place, because it would be more difficult to cut the trees around the monument. He said a detailed landscape plan will be prepared to fit in with the design of the monument.
“We have to get the monument done first,” he said. “That is the priority.”
During a recent public hearing, Al Dodge, the former tree warden, said the trees were planted as a snow barrier and were never intended to grow so tall.
“I think in no time at all ... they will be too tall for any situation there,” he said.
He recommended that the trees be removed. But not everyone agreed.
Tom Starr of Pleasant Street spoke against the proposal at the hearing, which has been rebroadcast online by public access television.