Merrimack River Replanting is Complete; Work Closes Out City Violation Notice

A MON Landscaping worker waters newly planted saplings along Water Street in Haverhill. (Courtesy photograph by Ralph Basiliere.)

Replanting of the banks of the Merrimack River, ordered after the city was cited for cutting 147 trees last year, is complete.

During the spring of 2017, the Haverhill Conservation Commission issued a violation notice to the city’s Department of Public Works for cutting and removing trees and other vegetation along about 3,000 feet of riverbank. The cutting project off Water Street, said commissioners, also took place within a Priority Habitat of Rare Species. When asked about the tree removal, Mayor James J. Fiorentini defended it at the time.

“In 14 years as mayor, that’s the most popular thing I have ever done. People love that project,” he told WHAV. He explained the clearing opened up views of the Merrimack River.

Planting and watering was completed last week by MON Landscaping of Dartmouth in compliance with an order of conditions issued by the Conservation Commission last fall, said Commissioner Ralph Basiliere.

After being cited, the city hired Marta Nover of Nover-Armstrong Associates of Carver to assess the situation and suggest a plan. She told the Commission, “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 explained National Grid previously cut another 140 trees near its overhead wires.

She 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.

Former Conservation Commissioner Brent Baeslack, who expressed concern about the cutting last year, was replaced by Fiorentini. That he was replaced when the Commission was then already short two members raised speculation that he was being retaliated against. The mayor countered, replacing Baeslack was solely intended to bring “new blood” to city boards.