SAUGUS — Winter Street resident Stephen McKinney is upset that he will lose half of his driveway and backyard to the Evans Park renovation project.
The deteriorating basketball and tennis court are being demolished to make way for regulation-sized basketball courts with new sidewalks, parking, drainage, lighting and security cameras.
When the land was surveyed for the project, the property line was discovered to be eight feet closer to McKinney’s home. He uses the land as his driveway and backyard, and has maintained the trees since he moved into the home in 1999.
A 19-inch maple tree on the opposite side of the new property line was removed Tuesday about 12 hours after Tree Warden Tim Wendell signed the permit.
“There’s no compassion,” said McKinney, who attended a hearing Monday night to express concerns regarding the impact removing the trees will have on his property.
Town Manager Scott Crabtree said the work needs to be done.
“This is the center of town and it’s just an eyesore,” said Crabtree. “This is definitely something that’s going to be used.”
As part of the $637,000 project, nine trees along the park’s perimeter will be removed to allow an eight-foot fence to be installed. In return, Town Engineer Todd Baldwin vowed to plant 21 new trees and 19 shrubs with root systems that won’t damage the park.
“We’d hate to put in a brand new park and know immediately that we’re going to have roots pulling up the sides,” said Baldwin.
The hearing on the maple’s removal was required under the town’s shade tree bylaw, said Town Counsel John Vasapolli. The bylaw is intended in part to encourage new tree planting. But it also permits the town to cut both roots and branches that infringe on town property, said Vasapolli.
McKinney worries that the stability of a silver maple tree behind his home could be compromised when the land between the tree and the fence is graded. He’s also worried that the roots left beneath his driveway will eventually rot and leave hollow pockets that could collapse.
“I’d guess that tree is 100 years old,”said McKinney. “It could fall on the house or on kids (using) the basketball court.”
At Monday night’s hearing, Wendell said he could not differentiate between the roots of the silver maple and the 19-inch maple that was cut down. Baldwin maintained that the town is only responsible for its own property, but said that workers would “take care” while completing the project.
“We’re not just going to be ripping things up,” said Baldwin, who added that the town would consider a retaining wall to protect the neighboring yard. “We haven’t ruled anything out.”
Funding for the Evans Park project was allocated at Town Meeting in May. Members approved $500,000 to be used for design, construction, lighting and security for the town’s parks and playgrounds, including but not limited to Evans and an ice rink next to the public safety building.
Two park-related articles passed at Town Meeting in 2017: one for $500,000 to repair and maintain existing playgrounds, and a second for $500,000 to add security, lighting and cameras to Bristow Street Park, Veterans Memorial Elementary School and Belmonte Middle School.