Letter: We should protect the Main Street trees

Posted 5/2/24

These trees have roots deep in Warren soil and Warren's past. They have endured a lot to have survived this long. We should protect them.

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Letter: We should protect the Main Street trees


To the editor:

When going to the bus stop near Dyer Street I have often encountered (and tripped over) the tortured pavement heaved up by the old tree there, one among 24 that RIDOT says must come down so that the pavement along Main Street can be repaired and made ADA (Americans with Disabitlities Act) compliant.

I wouldn't argue that the pavement there and elsewhere needs serious restoration. But removing the 24 trees wholesale to make those restorations is unimaginative and unnecessarily destructive, not just to the tree but to the town's aesthetics. A simple workaround could be to ask property owners whose front yard abuts the damaged pavement to allow a small incursion onto their property to accommodate a repaired sidewalk that would both fix the problem and spare the tree; a small curve in the pavement around the bulging roots. Perhaps the town could offer a tax break to these property owners.

As for the issue of ADA compliance, I tried reading through the regulations and got lost in their complexity. But what is clear from my reading is that the spirit of the ADA is to provide access to people with disabilities, where none exists. If access exists then the spirit of the ADA has been met, and its defense of the disabled unneeded.

That said, if the sidewalk RIDOT wants to repair was the only sidewalk on Main Street, those repairs would have to meet ADA regulations, as well they should. But Main Street has two sidewalks, and while the sidewalk to the west of Main Street is, in spots, in serious disrepair, the sidewalk to the east is not. It is totally navigable for people with disabilities. People with or without disabilities can travel along Main Street simply by proceeding on the east side of the street. The argument that the trees must be removed to provide access simply doesn't hold up. Access already exists.

As we learned from the Water Street experience a few years ago where fewer trees needed to be taken down than had originally been sentenced to the saw — and would have been taken down had not a group of Warrenites come to their rescue — so too is likely the case with these trees on Main Street.

Of course it would be easy for RIDOT to treat these trees as one problem with one solution, removal, but I think that the residents of Warren have the right to demand of RIDOT that it look at each tree on a case by case basis, consider all options with removal as the absolute last, and then present their plan to the town. And if Warren doesn't like the plan, we should fight it.

Administratively, the sidewalks may be RIDOT's, but the trees have roots deep in Warren soil and Warren's past. They have endured a lot to have survived this long. We should protect them.

Jerry Blitefield
Beach Street

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