Binney Park Tree Removal: An Alternative

Achieving what we want while preserving what we have and need.

The Binney Park Master Plan (BPMP) proposes planting new trees in the southern part of the park. We love trees and Binney Park could use more. The problem is that neither BPMP nor its current implementation plan recognize that the existing trees’ flowers, shade, habitat, and mass provide a lot of value to our community.

  • The current implementation would rip out twenty of our existing trees. BPMP would replace some of these trees with young, short, skinny trees that won’t mature for many years, and it would leave two areas (Area A and Area C, described below) without any trees at all.

  • Our alternative is to plant 28 of BPMP’s proposed trees this spring and plant the remaining trees (BPMP calls for seven more) when the existing trees die. The goal is to implement and complete BPMP proposed tree planting while keeping our valuable mature trees as long as we can.

The goal of beautiful, large, shady trees will be achieved in roughly the same time frame. We can plant most of BPMP’s proposed trees WITHOUT REMOVING A SINGLE TREE.

Tree Plots

These illustrations, based on BPMP, show existing and proposed trees, as well as the condemned trees, in the southern portion of Binney Park. The last illustration, “Seven More Trees,” shows that all of the trees proposed by BPMP will be planted.

You can see all the drawings by clicking the left and right arrows or by clicking on the thumbnail.


Tree Value by Area


All the condemned crabapples and the one sugar maple near Wesskum Wood Road fall into the four areas marked in the fourth tree plot above. There are three more trees that are marked and we will comment on them later (before the tree hearing). Areas A, B, and C are not impervious to flooding, but all you need is to look at the condemned trees to know that these areas are healthier than Area D.

Area A

The four trees in Area A (three crabapples and a sugar maple) are large, attractive, healthy trees between Wesskum Wood Road and the tennis courts. Not only will we lose their habitat, shade, and flowers, but we will also be forced to look at the chain link fence that they screen.

These Trees Will Not Be Replaced

BPMP calls for a “Native” Garden to cover the entire area between the road and the fence. Aside from highlighting the fence, this garden would create an maintenance nightmare that will be an eyesore for years. Click here to see the page I created to outline the problems with this proposal (spoiler alert - the page’s subtitle is “Please Don’t Do This”)


Area B

The green shapes show the current size of the trees. The blue ovals are the size of the replacement trees. It will take several years before they grow to be as large as the condemned trees are right now.

These four mature flowering crabapples will be replaced with “better” trees (BPMP calls for swamp oaks). It will take many years before the new trees are as big as the crabapples are now. The new trees will start with 95% less volume than the existing trees and it will take a decade before the new trees will have the same mass.

BPMP is vague about why swamp oaks would be better, but it does comment that the crabapples “conflict with the park’s character.” Exactly how they conflict is hard to glean, especially because BPMP calls for six other similar trees to be planted a few yards away, and its opinion on some trees character is not consistent with the 2009 Historic Landscape Report (as explained in Area C).


Area C

This photo is from the 2009 Historic Landscape Report. The ornamental tree on the left is one of the Area C trees that are marked for removal.

BPMP would remove the two crabapples that flank the restroom. They will not be replaced. These trees are quite attractive and were praised in the 2009 Historic Landscape Report that was produced by the same firm as being part of the “collection of plant materials (which) add significantly to the historic character.”

The 2015 BPMP claims that these trees “conflict with the park’s character.”


Area D

This is the area where flooding is hurting the trees. It would be better if flood tolerant trees had been planted here, but they weren’t. We have invested several years in these trees, and even though they should be better, they provide the only shade in the area. They aren’t perfect, but it will be years before new trees can replace their shade.

Just because something is going to die eventually doesn’t mean we should kill it. We should be trying to save as many of these trees as possible while planting new trees that will outlive (and eventually out-shade) the trees we have now.