New Assessment Recommends Removing Century-Old Tree at Harvard Divinity School

I attended part of the Agassiz Neighborhood Council meeting last night at Harvard Divinity School to discuss the future of the red oak in the HDS courtyard that would be removed as part of a planned renovation and addition to Andover Hall.  A new report by a master arborist from Bartlett Tree Experts has judged the tree “over-mature” and a “high risk” of failure. The staff from the City’s Urban Forestry Department and Steve Stimson the landscape architect on the project concurred with Bartlett’s analysis. This is very disappointing, but I have to trust the experts in prioritizing safety. To note, the proposed temporary moratorium on tree removals being debated by the City Council would not apply to trees classified as “dangerous” like this one. The Harvard Crimson reported on the meeting.

HDS has committed to planting three 6″-caliper yellow-woods in that spot and to planting another 20 trees on the HDS campus that will equal and exceed to lost canopy.

Here is a statement from HDS’s Director of Operations, Ralph De Florio, who at the meeting shared that his daughter’s best friend had been killed 10 years ago when a large tree fell in her backyard. That is a tragedy no one would want to risk once a tree in such a public place has been determined to pose the threat of imminent failure.

The examination by Bartlett Tree Experts included a comprehensive assessment which revealed that the tree has significant decay in its trunk, as well as in several large limbs. The arborist concluded that the tree is in “irreversible decline” and is at “high risk” of failure, which presents the potential of injury to persons given its location in a popular pedestrian path. Additionally, it could cause significant damage to Andover Hall. Multiple mitigation efforts were contemplated that would allow the tree to remain or be moved; however, given the state of “irreversible decline,” and the potential for “significant” injury or damage, the arborist recommends that the tree be removed.
The safety of our faculty, staff, students, neighbors, and visitors is our top priority. Beginning immediately, access to the area around the tree will be restricted, and overhead protection will be installed allowing safe entryway to Andover-Harvard Theological Library.

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Jan Devereux
City Councillor
Cambridge, MA