A Linden Lament - 21 mature trees cut down at Museum of Science

A Linden Lament - 21 mature trees cut down at Museum of Science

While walking home from work yesterday, I got a big shock. The 21 linden trees that grew in the grass strip in front of the Museum of Science were being cut down. By noon today, they were gone. I knew that the sidewalk was scheduled to be widened, but according to the Department of Conservation and Recreation’s project description that is still linked to on their web site, the “streetscape improvements” weren’t scheduled to begin until May of 2011.

It really felt like a kick in the gut. I’ve been walking past those trees for over 25 years. I’ve seen them grow from young 6 inch diameter trunks to their present - well, up until this Wednesday - 15 to 18 inch size. I remember several of them being thinned out to accommodate their growth. That was OK because they were choking each other out. The remaining trees grew nicely, and their crowns again took on the balanced rounded conical shape of healthy young lindens. In the warm months, the shade they provided, made the walk over the old dam much more pleasant. In late June and early July the sweet scent of their flowers made that stretch the best part of my day. No more...

It seems like we’re losing quite a lot of trees lately. Along Memorial Drive, at Fresh Pond, the mauling of street trees by utility contractors. The impending development of the Silver Maple forest at Little Spy Pond (much of which is in Belmont) is probably the most serious threat to what little nature we have left in Cambridge. Here we have wetlands, flood plains, deer, coyotes, fishers, many species of waterfowl, wading and perching birds. This is private land, and preserving it would be a legal and financial challenge, but it is all we have left. While it is all the way across town from where I live, and I don’t get out there much, I breathe easier (literally and figuratively) knowing it is there. Considering all the other development going on in what was once known as the Great Swamp, maybe we should think about keeping this one.

While discussing the construction being done in front of the Museum with a friend and museum employee the other day, he mentioned that they were going to lose all their trees to the project. He seemed rather distressed by it, but as the main discussion was on other topics, and I still thought this phase of the project was a long way off, I didn’t pursue it. I guess it wouldn’t have done any good anyway since the work was already scheduled. One thing that I should say is that this is not the work of the Museum of Science, but of the Commonwealth by the DCR. The museum is located on the old Charles River dam which is owned by the Commonwealth and leased to the museum.

The 55 million dollar project will rebuild the drawbridge, repair the Craigie Dam Bridge section on the Cambridge side where water flows under the roadway, add bike lanes in both directions, rebuild the driveway entrances, and widen the sidewalks allowing bikes to to share them with pedestrians. There is a line in the plan that says “Install new sustainable landscape feature in front of museum of science”. I don’t know what it is or where it will be, but with that much more pavement and 21 fewer large trees locking up tons of carbon every year, shading and scenting my world, I doubt if I will feel more sustained.

Click this to see Craigie Drawbridge and Craigie Dam Bridge Rehabilitation Project


Not that I like the chopping down of that many tress especially in an urban setting but they may have had to do it because the root system of the trees may have been ...or certainly would have in the future caused damage to the dam. It is important to remember on that location you are not looking at earth. You are looking at a dam which has been transformed to not look like a dam.

Over time tree root systems can do extensive damage to man made materials such as brick, cement and concrete. I am not sure what the real reason for these trees coming down are but I imagine that it has something to do with the dam as stated above.