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It wasn’t just any tree.
It was the archway to the center of town — a green canopy of paddle-shaped draping leaves weighting the branches and creating a weeping effect.
Its singular dignity was noted by many who drove under it regularly.
So when the weeping beech tree at 78 Main St. was removed on May 1 and 2, it was cause for discussion on the Westford Friends Facebook page.
“I was shocked when I drove by it today! I imagine the family who’s (sic) property it was on had it cut. It did seem a little dangerous to leave during the next bad storm. It sure was pretty though!” wrote one Facebook commenter.
Storms and trees are a challenging combination in Westford — a town which treasures its aspens, white pines and mixed oaks, suffers to keep its streets lined with trees, despite the branches that overhang wires. Since October when a powerful storm knocked out power to 2,500 National Grid customers in Westford, thousands of residents have gone without electricity for more than a day on three occasions — and that’s only the tip of the iceberg. An ice storm in December 2008 left some residents without electricity for five or more days and another memorable storm in October 2012 caused widespread power outages bringing the town to its knees.
The combination of heavy winds and wet snow are too much for the National Grid wires, leaving households into the dark, forcing school cancellations across town, and requiring teams of bucket workers to be flown in from Canada and across the country to repair the downed wires.
But the weeping beech on Main Street threatened to cause greater harm than a power outage.
“The tree was removed due to its overall declining condition, and the risk it posed to public safety,” said Highway Superintendent Richard “Chip” Barrett.
Barrett, a member of the Town Forest Committee, said town officials had tried many times to prolong the life of the tree over the past decade.
“Unfortunately, the tree’s condition posed a risk to the public and needed to be removed,” Barrett added.
The decision came after an independent professional arborist, Scott Fitzgerald, was consulted, Barrett stated. Fitzgerald, of Westford, did not return a call seeking comment.
Arborist Rich Gambale, of Tyngsborough, was not familiar with the Westford tree, but said he doesn’t think there are many weeping beech trees in the area. The trees grow to be almost 70 feet tall and can live for more than 100 years under ideal conditions, he said.
The weeping beech tree originated in England and was introduced in the United States in 1847, according to NatureWalk.Yale.edu.
In Westford, it was unique because of its graceful presence in the center of a town known for its beauty. But in the end, there was no saving it.
“Really? That tree was beautiful, especially on (sic) winter when you could see the twisty branches. But if it wasn’t safe, it’s best to remove it.” said Ellen Callahan Doucette on Facebook.
Jill Toney who owns the 78 Main Street property said she worked with Barrett to do what was necessary to keep motorists and pedestrians safe.
“The tree was leaning towards the road and on the back side there was rot on the base of the trunk,” she stated in a message to WestfordCAT. “There was a big gap in the middle of the tree that was a place of concern and the big branch near the road had cracks in it,..”
Perhaps one Facebook commenter summed up what everyone who knew of it felt after its removal.
“Thanks for the memories, sweet tree,” wrote the Westford Friends member.