Providence Makes Room for Five Dozen Restitution Trees
May 6, 2021
The three middle-aged London planetrees along South Main Street in Providence received most if not all of the attention last year when National Grid had to fell some 40 trees in Ward 1 to replace aging underground transmission lines.
The community rallied against cutting down the healthy London planetrees that had weathered hurricanes, a superstorm, acid rain, and bitter soil. National Grid said it had no choice, noting the trees were directly on top of two vaults containing high-power transmission lines that needed to be replaced. A spokesperson said the trees were planted years after the original cables were installed.
Ilona Miko, a Ward 3 resident who volunteers at the 10,000 Suns sunflower project not far from where the planetrees once stood, started a petition, which was signed by 653 people, decrying the trees’ removal regardless of needed utility upgrades.
They wanted National Grid to find another way. It couldn’t. The trees came down July 15, 2020, with a promise that other trees would be planted to balance the scale.
Early this year, the Tree Restitution Committee, initiated by Ward 1 City Council member John Goncalves and consisting of the Parks Department’s Forestry Division, the Providence Neighborhood Planting Program, Save The Trees PVD, National Grid and other entities, was created to plan the planting of restitution trees to replace those National Grid had to chop down to replace some 2 miles of aging underground transmission lines along parts of Clarkson, Admiral, Dollar and South Main streets.
Miko, a member of the committee though Save The Trees PVD, which she created, said the tree promise was kept because of “effective city leadership” from Goncalves and National Grid’s engaged involvement, as about 70 replacement trees are expected to be planted by this fall, mostly in Ward 1 parks. None will be planted above those vaults on South Main Street, or where future utility projects or development are planned. National Grid is covering both the cost of the trees and the labor to plant them. It also has promised to maintain them.
Not all of the trees, however, will be planted in Ward 1, as the Tree Restitution Committee decided to plant 30 percent of the replacement trees in Ward 11, in canopy-deficient neighborhoods.
Some of the restitution planting has already begun. Young Woods Elementary School on Prairie Avenue received 10 trees. Late last month 13 trees were planted along the concrete playground at the Southside Boys & Girls Club on Louisa Street.
The replacement planting includes 21 different types of trees, including London planetrees, American elm, Callery pear, American linden, American holly, red maple, scarlet oak, Norway spruce and swamp white oak.
Miko said she wouldn’t have made this tree trade — noting many of the felled trees were mature and saying “we shouldn’t have to sacrifice some trees to get others planted” — but is happy the city and National Grid came together to create an equitable response.