Hollowed Trunk of Black Oak Tree Poses Danger

Get daily Westford text alerts by subscribing here.

An historic black oak tree, possibly dating to 1744 and earlier, may be facing the end of its life, pending selectmen’s reaction on July 23 when Library Director Ellen Rainville and Highway Superintendent Chip Barrett address them.

With yellow tape surrounding it, the tree has been deemed unsafe by an arborist who used an ultrasound device to determine that 55 inches of the 79-inch diameter of the trunk is hollow. [Continue reading below].

The gnarled and twisted trunk and branches rooted between the J.V. Fletcher Library and the First Parish Church United could be the black oak cited in a 1744 deed for land sold to the town for a militia training ground, according to Rainville.

“That would be the land around the Common,” she said.

While pragmatic about the pending loss, Rainville understands the communal outcry that is likely to occur when residents learn of the loss.

“It’s hard because it’s such a magnificent tree, but it could damage historic buildings and it could fall across the street,” she said. “It’s a dense wood (carrying) a great deal of weight.”

Yellow tape surrounding the historic tree at the library reminds residents of the danger it poses. PHOTO BY NICK WOODBURY

She and Barrett are putting the matter before selectmen to give it the “broadest reading,” she said. In the meantime, she is seeking the opinion of another arborist. If the tree is taken down, the stump could be turned into a reading nook, Rainville said, or a mini library.

Her hope is that the community will understand the danger and realize that the tree cannot be salvaged.

“We’ll have to…grieve together and see if we can retain a portion of the tree and plant a new tree,” said Rainville.