1. Historic District Signage
2. National Register Education & Protection
3. Sidewalk Installation & Maintenance Plan
4. Tree Commission Support
5. Utility Lines Undergrounding
6. Rubber sheeting
7. New Building Inspector & Building Department
8. National Landmark Status
9. Archeological Ordinance
10. Public Restriction Tract Index
11. Local Historic District Expansion
If you saw pictures of the city back during the colonial times pre-revolutionary and all the way up to the War of 1812; you could instantly recognize that the city was ‘naked’ when it came to trees. Horses were in profusion, everyone had to have a cow or two for back up ‘dairy’ reserves – and all this required large amounts of pasture. And the first thing that had to go were the trees! This is why John Bromfield and his important will became so crucial – it literally reshaped the city’s appearance. From 1851 on, Newburyport would forever be known for its sheer beauty in foliage-covered boulevards from one end to the other. It’s so lovely that we forget that most urban centers do not enjoy the setting that Mr. Bromfield’s vision has realized.
Now in today’s stress in making sidewalks compliant with strict American Disability Act requirements, often trees are left out of the formula. The main object is to provide enough space for two wheelchairs to be able to pass each other and this includes not falling into ruts, uneven surfaces and potholes. Since street trees impede such movement, most sidewalk construction omits their presence.
AND THIS IS WHERE THE PROBLEM IS CENTERED IN NEWBURYPORT.
We have many new homeowners and many new architects, contractors and developers who are coming from outside the city; who have no knowledge of our city’s uniqueness. Ironically, Bromfield Street (He must be spinning in his grave!*) is a fine example of this ignorance. At one time, as a tribute to him, the entire street was lined with majestic elm trees. When they were devastated in the last century, they were unevenly replaced. The new owners and developers have put old cold sidewalks without any trees unknowingly ignorant of their need.
And as I have feared in a post long ago, once the Tree Commission was created; this ignorance has spread throughout the citizenry. And this is not their fault at all! You see, at one time, there was a dedicated bunch of volunteers who sacrificed time and talents to get the word out about our trees. They promoted, applied for grants and educated the community about the desperate need. This was the powerful Tree Committee and was seen in strong non-profit entities as Friends of Newburyport Trees (FONT) and they worked hard to educate the property owners with an informative website, www.newburyport-trees.com. The non-profit is gone and the website has been taken down. And they all sacrificed their talent and their time to create the Tree Commission and to make sure the city had a paid arborist and an active Tree Warden.
AND THEY WERE FABULOUSLY SUCCESSFUL!
This is the problem with any governmental institution. It gets established, it gets organized, and yes, it even gets funded – but the citizens have no idea what is going on inside the bureaucracy. It’s now the purview of the Mayor and the elected officials and the management. It doesn’t matter if they have a nice program. It doesn’t matter if they have dedicated employees and it doesn’t matter if they are getting funding. (I might add the Mayor has promised they will get more funding as the years progress.)
OUR CITY IS LARGELY IN THE DARK.
THERE IS NO EDUCATION PROGRAM . THERE IS NO PROMOTIONAL PROGRAM TO INFORM THE AVERAGE CITIZEN.
Just like the brick sidewalks; someone will meticulously care for their building, lovingly perfect their landscape but will allow the public sidewalk to be in a hideous, weed-choked condition. No education as to importance or value of keeping up the city’s public property. And unfortunately, our trees are in the same boat. All it would take would be a property owner shepherding the tree in front of their land – giving it water when it’s needed, notifying the arborist if their is a problem – caring for the grounds around it to ensure its proper watering and nutrition. Many do, but so many more do not because they think the city will do it.
Any historic preservationist who loves our heritage tourism industry and wants to prosper our uniqueness; needs to preserve the buildings, oversee the landscape, care for our brick sidewalks (those inside the NHD of course), and make sure our street trees are the best they can be!
This is a serious need to get the entire citizenry inside the Newburyport Historic District to get on board to protect our lovely, and unique street trees.
* According to biographers, he is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery but there are no burial records that indicate where he is located. Perhaps we can find it from the smoke issuing from the friction as he spins in the grave!