Town mulls trees vs. roads

>Amherst Planning Board is aiming for a compromise

AMHERST – The Planning Board is strug­gling to reach a compro­mise on the issue of tree clearing on Pond Parish Road, where more than 70 trees are scheduled to come down as part of a road rebuilding proj­ect.

Pond Parish is a des­ignated scenic road, and last week several people who live on or near the road told the board they don’t think cutting that many trees is justified. They described a dense canopy of oak, maple and pine trees they don’t want to lose.

It is "the very epitome of a scenic road," said David Locke, with "many large, century-old trees. … There is no other road like it."

Other residents men­tioned Lyndeborough Road, another scenic road where they said tree cutting has changed its character. They said safety concerns aren’t valid and it’s a local road, not a connector road.

The board’s July 20 meeting was the second scenic road hearing for Pond Parish, and board members seemed con­cerned with preserving the mature hardwood trees.

"Seventy trees in a 2-mile roadway – that’s a significant hit," board member Michael Dell Orfano said.

But Bruce Berry, De­partment of Public Works director, talked about the need to deal with drainage problems and to accommodate in­creasing traffic. Buildup of silt along the side of the road is a significant problem, he said, and because of increasingly severe storms that have a big impact on the road.

And the town is no lon­ger a quiet rural hamlet, Berry said.

"Amherst is the 27th-largest community in New Hampshire out of 230," he said. "We’re not Mason. … There is a lot more traffic. If you want to maintain lousy roads, the traffic is not going away."

Berry wants to clear 3 or 4 feet of roadside, and board members talked about a compromise: removing only dead or diseased trees within a more narrow area. Board member Sally Wilkins said the town needs to define how a scenic road should be constructed and preserved.

Board members took a vote to table their de­cision until Wednesday, Aug. 3, and to visit the road before that.

After the first public hearing on July 6, the board approved tree clearing on Baboosic Lake Road, another sce­nic road.

The road project is be­ing paid for with a $15 million bond the town approved after select­men voted in 2010 to adopt a list of 52 roads to be rebuilt, for a total of 22.9 miles.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland@cabinet.com.