Consultant Marta Nover explains her recommendations for replanting 61 trees along the Merrimack River. (WHAV News photograph.)
Consultants recommend the city replace about one-fifth of the trees that were recently removed from the banks of the Merrimack River, just off downtown.
The advisors were retained by city’s Department of Public Works to respond to a violation notice the Haverhill Conservation Commission issued in April after the board deemed the cutting was not properly permitted. Of 300 missing trees, determined by counting stumps, Marta Nover of Nover-Armstrong Associates said only about half that many was the work of the city’s April clearing.
“What we found was 147 native and non-native trees were cut recently. We also located stumps that were recently cut, but prior to, by the utility company,” Nover said. National Grid cut 140 trees near its overhead wires, she explained.
“We wanted to show the Commission that the DPW took this seriously,” she added.
Besides counting stumps, Nover said, consultants were able to determine the species of each tree by analyzing the remaining bark. Most trees were up to six inches in diameter. She said 60 older River Birch and Silver Maple trees remain along the river path.
Nover recommended replanting three native types—Red Oak, Silver Maple and White Pine. Each new sapling would be no more than an inch and a half in diameter. She explained her rationale.
“It’s all going to be done by hand. It’s on the slope, down to the river. It will prevent any erosion from happening, but smaller diameter, younger trees have a better chance of survival.”
Commissioner Madeleine Morrissey questioned why so few trees are being replaced. Nover responded she advises staying away from the river’s edge and overhead electrical wires. She said she is also taking into account the river views nearby homeowners would like to keep.
New member Ralph Basiliere said he also agrees removing the old stumps to plant new trees could destabilize the river bank. However, Commissioner Phillip LaCroix said he prefers planting of larger diameter trees to provide shade for other species. Nover explained consultants are trying to avoid bringing in heavy equipment—necessary for transporting larger trees—onto the banks. She said the new trees are expected to grow at least a foot each year. Landscape Architect Ronald S. Headrick, of Greenman-Pedersen, added it is difficult to plant on a steep slope.
“If you’ve ever tried to plant any kind of a bush or tree on a slope, you know it goes level so it fights the slope on the back side and fills out on the front side,” he said.
Commissioners were unable to act on the recommendations because the state Department of Environmental Protection is now conducting its own assessment, explained Chairman Cheryl Accardi. The earliest the Commission may issue, what is known as, an “order of conditions” will be at its June 22 meeting.