FROM THE TOWN ADMINISTRATOR’S DESK
Voters have approved funds for the rejuvenation of the Town Common in front of Town Hall. Design funds were approved two years ago and this past spring funds were approved for the actual construction of the new plans. In both cases funds came from the Community Preservation account which receives dollars from a local property tax surcharge and funds from the state (via registry of deed fees.)
The design process has been underway for the past 9 months. Landscape architect Toby Wolf was brought in to assist a design development group comprised of residents representing different groups – the Historic District Commission, the Friends of Manchester Trees, the Veteran’s Memorial committee, First Parish Church, the Town Tree Warden, and others. The goal of the redesign is to create more green space and an inviting public gathering area that complements both the historic church and Town Hall.
Public presentations of the design made at previous Selectmen’s meetings have been received favorably. However at last Monday’s Selectmen’s meeting, which focused on the 7 trees that are proposed to be removed to allow the new design to go forward along with the separately designed Veteran’s Memorial, strong concerns were raised by attendees over the potential removal of some of the larger trees. The current plans call for the removal of 7 of the existing 20 trees with 11 new trees proposed as part of the new landscaping plan.
Three trees in particular garnered much of the attention – a large elm in the center of the common, a large linden tree off to the rear side near the police station entrance, and a large maple tree near the entrance way by Seaside 1. Tree Warden Tom Henderson noted that the maple is suffering from heartwood rot and will not survive much longer. This tree is in the way of the new Veteran’s Memorial planned for the western edge of the common. The linden is in the best condition but measures are needed to avoid its roots from impacting the walkway nearby. The elm is also fairly healthy though in need of pruning and feeding. However, plans to regrade the common are likely to negatively impact this tree thus the reason for having it on the removal list. Alternative layouts may be possible to allow this tree to stay though its long term health remains a concern.
In addition to the Town’s efforts to revitalize the Town Hall Common, there is the private citizen initiative to build the new Veteran’s Memorial on the Common. Voters have approved contributing Community Preservation funds toward this new memorial which replaces the old memorials that were on the common. This project, in the works for many years now, is nearing its fundraising goals and expects to move forward this fall. The Town’s project has been designed around the design of the memorial and the plan is to construct both projects at the same time.
The public input regarding the trees added valuable perspectives as we continue to develop the plans for a revitalized Town Common. Given the need for additional information and further discussion, the Selectmen voted to continue the tree hearing and will pick up the discussion at their next meeting scheduled for July 8th. In the meantime, residents are encouraged to review the plans for the common which can be found at the Town’s website.