Franklin Square Elms Come down after 170 Years of Breathing Life into Neighborhood

It was like a wake in Franklin Square last Friday morning as tree crews moved in with cranes and saws to take down three of the historic 170-year-old White Elm trees that line the park.

The diseased trees had stood tall – and grown gallantly – in the   neighborhood pretty much since it had been laid out for proper Bostonians to get out of the central city.

Neighbors came out before work, or stopped during walks to take in the sad, but necessary scene. While it was only three of many trees, the unspoken threat was that it could soon be all of the elms if the Dutch Elm disease cannot be stopped from spreading in the interconnected root system.

Chris Cato came out to document the loss of the three trees.

He said he played under the trees as a kid, living in Cathedral Housing and then at a family home on Shawmut Avenue.

“I grew up in the South End and this was my neighborhood park,” he said. “It was the closest green space…It’s kind of appropriate for the South End now – it’s out with the old and in with the new. It has to happen some time, but it’s not easy to absorb…It’s sad to see them go. I enjoyed the shade of them and they kept us cool. They provided a lot of shade for us on a hot summer day.”

Blackstone Franklin Neighborhood Association (BFNA) Treasurer Matt Mues said it was bittersweet, and worrisome to think that many more could be lost.

“It’s sad to see them go, but if it can save the others, then we have to,” he said. “If we get more light in Franklin Square, there could be a benefit. Maybe people would walk through it more and instead of around it.”

The Friends of Franklin Square and the BFNA are working on a proactive treatment program that has the potential to save the rest of the elms, but it comes at quite a cost.

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