Opposition to Malden’s fake-turf plan to remove green oasis continues
(Editor’s Note: This article was submitted by the Friends of Roosevelt Park)
“Winter’s been dark and dreary, so, for my health, I went down to Roosevelt Park to do a little birding in the sunshine, and then I saw half the trees were gone,” reported resident Kari Percival. “It was a bit of a shock. It was not a happy way to greet the New Year.”
Last Friday neighbors of Roosevelt Park in Malden, Mass. – a living oasis in a densely developed urban neighborhood – counted at least 12 fresh stumps where living trees had been. None of the stumps were hollow and none of the trees’ leafy crowns had shown die-back last summer. A clear cut of over half of the trees providing leafy shade to the field was noted on the southern border of the park. The trees were cut down between Christmas and New Year’s Day without a required public tree hearing. Conflicting information about the trees’ removal has emerged from local officials.
Advocates for a living green grass and trees, Friends of Roosevelt Park, have many questions about the clear cut:
- Who granted permission to cut these trees down, and when was permission granted?
- Trees cut are part of wetlands and flood zone. Should the Conservation Commission have been contacted? If no, why not? The MassDEP confirms that National Grid would need a hearing and a permit from the Malden Conservation Commission to remove vegetation.
- Who are the owners of land where trees were cut? What other entities own or make management decisions around this parcel?
- Does this cutting of trees in the wetland area apply to the recent Conservation Commission changes brought before the council?
- Tree Warden Chris Rosa’s tree plotter inventory only showed 3 trees on public property. Can the status of all the trees and property in that area be clarified?
- Was this clear cut a follow through of the design of the Roosevelt Park Improvement Plan?
- If so, did it go forward because of the approval of the HUD loan?
- All trees had orange ribbons and numbers. Why did the tree clearing stop at the willow tree?
- The Salemwood School Community depends on the shade of these trees to cool the area when the sun is hot. Who will be held accountable? Who will pay for the replacement trees?
December News: This mass tree removal follows other recent park news. In early December, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) rubber-stamped the City of Malden’s loan application, releasing funds for a plan to remove natural grass and develop the park with artificial turf. HUD accepted the city’s environmental review without review of Environmental Justice (EJ) protocols. HUD’s approval effectively ignored the many unanswered questions and concerns raised by residents objecting to Malden’s EJ failures in developing the plan. Ongoing concerns, such as the heat effects of removing over two acres of living grass, a recognized green climate solution, from a neighborhood suffering from an urban heat island, were addressed only minimally. Malden leadership so far failed to heed Friends of Roosevelt Park (FoRP) calls for a halt to the plan, and make a new plan centering adjacent neighbor and Salemwood School community voices, removal of lead soil to a depth needed to restore living grass, the restoration of a natural grass field and protection of standing trees.
November News: In November adjacent neighbors met with Mayor Gary Christenson and Ward 5 Councillor Barbara Murphy to voice opposition to the plan to remove living shade trees and natural grass from their local green space to install artificial turf. Neighbors’ calls for leadership based on facts supporting natural grass – such as athlete health and children’s safety, climate science, cool temperatures and future sustainability, and protecting Malden River water quality, mitigation of toxic soil, plus taking the leadership opportunity to repair and prevent environmental racism for the historically red-lined neighborhood – fell on deaf ears.
Mayor Christenson told neighbors that in spite of their advocacy, he decided that adding the environmental burden of removing green space for urban neighbors was an “opportunity cost he was willing to take.” When asked to justify the step, Mayor Christenson could not offer citywide data on field scheduling and usage to show that Malden needs another artificial turf field, nor offer plans to replace aging artificial turf fields nearby that are in states of disrepair unsafe for athletes.
September News: In September, Mayor Christenson and Councillor Murphy skipped the meeting FoRP held to inform city leadership of their EJ concerns around the plan to install artificial turf. Instead of attending the community participation meeting that voters invoked via a summer signature drive to address their concerns, the mayor called his own public meeting one week ahead of the FoRP meeting, to boost the project and drown out calls for a halt and redesign of the project.