Concern over construction near 400-year-old tree in Sunderland

Franklin County

SUNDERLAND, Mass. (WWLP) – The Buttonball tree is the oldest American Sycamore in the state, but some are worried about nearby construction.

Bart Bouricius, a former arborist captured photos on Monday showing equipment close to the tree.

“It looked like people really didn’t know what was going on,” he told 22News. Bouricius said equipment like this in the area of the 114 foot tall tree’s root system could cause damage.

Geoff Kravitz is the Town Administrator for Sunderland. He said that equipment was put there by accident, and was immediately removed.

“The plan is to move the sidewalk away further from the Buttonball tree we talked about minimizing digging around specifically around that tree and actually raising up the sidewalk to minimize root impact,” he told 22News.

Kravitz said the construction is part of a five or six year project to widen the road, the sidewalks, and to replace a storm drain underneath the road. He said an arborist report was conducted last spring to make sure the project would have a minimal impact on the tree.

But some, like Shawn Smith, said they want to make sure this piece of living history is preserved as best as possible.

“In a time when we’re looking for stories of perseverance, I think trees like this are a perfect example,” he said. “I think it’s a living, breathing species that we can look at and see a sign of perseverance.”

And Kravitz wanted to make it clear, construction that would be near the Buttonball tree won’t begin for at least a month.

He said they plan to meet with the town and project arborists along with MassDOT professionals before then.

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