Margaret Brown lives next to Roosevelt Elementary School, at Queen Anne and Lindley Street, where a number of old trees are scheduled to be removed Thursday to make way for school construction. - Bob Pennell

Residents make plea for trees

Longtime Medford resident Margaret Brown, who grew up next to Medford's Roosevelt Elementary School, can't remember a time when silver maple trees didn't stand in formation at the edge of campus along Queen Anne Avenue.

"They always looked big to me," said Brown, who stayed in the neighborhood when she married back in 1956 and bought a house next to the school at Queen Anne and Lindley Street. "They're just so grand and glorious."

Thirteen trees on the campus have been scheduled for removal Thursday because of safety concerns and planned construction of a replacement school. The silver maples along Queen Anne between Academy Place and Lindley Street will come down, along with some flowering plums, Siberian elms and European birches, school district officials said.

"The main focus of the tree removal is the safety of kids," said Mark Button, Medford schools facilities director. "The trees were deemed unsafe or are in the pathway of construction."

The school, built in 1911, is set to be demolished in August and replaced with a new building by 2010.

The plans to fell the trees prompted a flood of complaints from neighbors who think they could be saved with proper care and pruning.

"That just saddens me," Brown said. "We've been fighting so hard for them. We tried to save them."

City arborist Bill Harrington has fielded multiple calls from residents outraged that the city gave the school district a permit to remove the trees.

But Harrington agreed with the conclusion of the school district's consultant, arboriculture and landscape architecture firm Galbraith & Associates, that some of the trees, namely the silver maples, are hazardous.

"Nobody wants to see trees go, but as arborists we have to point out trees that are hazardous," said arborist Norma Hawkins, of Galbraith & Associates. "These are short-lived trees, there is decay evident in all of them, and they are past their prime."

It'll cost about $11,500 for Central Point-based Bartlett Tree Service to remove the 13 trees Thursday, school district officials said.

Some residents said they moved to the neighborhood because of the ambiance of the tree-lined streets and quaint, old-time houses.

"It has always been my dream since I was a little girl to live on Queen Anne," said Donna Carver, who now lives on Queen Anne. "The trees are what makes the street."

Carver posted signs on a burgundy 1975 Plymouth Valiant parked next to the trees and on a stake at the intersection of Queen Anne Avenue and Academy Place urging residents to call the city and protest plans to cut the trees.

One of her signs is a personal jab at landscape architect John Galbraith, of Galbraith & Associates.

"I say, he goes, not the trees," the sign says.

"I said, 'At least, wait until they build the school,' " Carver said. "If they're not going to replace them right away, why cut them down right away?"

Neighbors also have complained that the school district has stopped watering the trees, lawn and shrubs, reducing the plants' chances of survival.

Brown said she and her neighbor have tried to water the trees and shrubs with their garden hoses.

Hawkins said the trees' good looks might lead some neighbors to believe the trees are safe, but there can be internal decay.

"A lot of times decay can occur in a tree, and it still looks green," Hawkins said. "A wind or weight from heavy rain could cause it to fall apart.

"With the children at the school and the construction impacts these trees will receive, to keep them would not be wise," she said.

Frustration among the neighbors has been exacerbated because they've heard varying accounts of what the trees' fate will be, Brown said.

At a neighborhood meeting May 7, officials told residents only one or two trees would be removed to make way for construction, she said.

"Then, they flip-flopped that quickly," Brown said. "That's what's disconcerting. You don't know what to believe pretty soon."

The trees will be replaced after the new school is in place in 2010, said Dan Gibbs, Medford schools grounds foreman. The new trees will have a minimum of a 2-inch diameter, he said.

Reach reporter Paris Achen at 541-776-4459 or

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