EXPERTS WEIGH IN
John Berryhill, Arborist and Longtime Urban Tree Specialist
Dear Northampton Community,
I am a certified arborist with the Mass. Arborists Association and have been certified in tree risk assessment the International Soc. of Arboriculture's Tree Risk Assessment Qualification. I was recently given the opportunity to assess the condition of the Kwanzan cherry trees that line the sides of Warfield Place. I am aware of what has been said of their age and condition and how some have argued that their current state supports the idea of proceeding with plans to repave the street and sidewalk that envelope them. I feel compelled to share my strong belief that these trees are not in the poor condition that has been described in other assessments that I have heard and I implore decision makers to pause and consider the value that their current, precious state of maturity provides our community.
I have heard the terms "pathogen", "decay" and "decline" used to describe the condition of these trees and can say with extreme confidence that they are not diseased, not in rapid decline, and are actually showing signs or vitality. Tip dieback that is apparent on a few trees is likely a consequence of extreme drought that occurred in 2017 and it is encouraging to see sprouting occuring, indicating that the tree is actively recovering from that stress. All trees appear to have desirable structural strength relative to their size and the potential loads they could experience from weather.
Although I am not aware of all the considerations that have been made while planning this work, I must strongly push back against the idea that these trees are frail, causing unacceptable risk, and good candidates for removal. These trees are experiencing a rare and precious moment of maturity in a growing environment where that is seldom seen. Mischaracterizing their condition to support a paving project would clash so harshly with all this city has done to honor and celebrate the value of urban trees.
Thank you for considering this.
David Haskell, Author, Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies, Guggenheim Fellow
Long may those trees stand. They are beautiful sylvan elders.
Ivy Vann, AICP Certified Planner, Congress for the New Urbanism
July 9, 2021
To whom it may concern:
I have been retained by the residents of Warfield Place, Northampton, MA to represent them as a design professional in their discussions with the City of Northampton. I am an AICP certified planner, now working with the Congress for the New Urbanism and the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) on projects to create livable, equitable, sustainable communities.
The city is proposing to completely alter the character and function of Warfield Place. The plan proposes to remove a number of arborist-attested healthy cherry trees, take out fully planted planting strips maintained by the neighborhood, and eliminate a sidewalk on one side of the street in order to create a curb and a planting strip on the other side of the street.
This is a counterproductive proposal. Warfield Place currently functions quite well as a woonerf, a residential shared street as described by the National Association of City Traffic Officials standard here.
Woonerfs are described by the NACTO design handbook as “Low-volume residential streets, especially in older cities, often have narrow or crumbling sidewalks. Many of these streets operate de facto as shared spaces, in which children play and people walk, sharing the roadway with drivers.
Depending on the street’s volume and role in the traffic network, these streets have the potential to be redesigned and enhanced as shared streets. Shared streets can meet the desires of adjacent residents and function foremost as a public space for recreation, socializing, and leisure.”
Right now this is exactly how Warfield Place functions. The design proposed by the city will completely alter for the worse a functional woonerf and replace it with an automobile-centric suburban street. Persons using mobility devices will have fewer choices for navigating the street after the proposed design changes create a single sidewalk.
I recommend that the City of Northampton use this opportunity to create a better woonerf using the NACTO standards and referencing this recent study on the value and implementation of woonerfs in a similar neighborhood in Somerville MA.
Given Northampton’s abundance of historic streets this is an opportunity to enhance the livability of both this neighborhood and other similar neighborhoods by using this standard, rather than imposing an entirely inappropriate suburban street standard on an existing, functioning street.
Ivy Vann AICP, CNU-A
Ivy Vann Town Planning and Urban Design