BERNARDSTON — No action will be taken regarding trees illegally removed from Pratt Field until the local tree warden weighs in.
Fifty-seven of the 93 trees in Pratt Field were removed in preparation for the annual Gas Engine Show, which will be held at Pratt Field for the first time this year. Before, the church fundraiser was held on land off Route 10 now taken by a facility for growing marijuana.
The show’s organizers misunderstood what their rights to the field were, and on March 30, they began to clear the field as they thought was appropriate. All work was stopped on April 1 by order of the Selectboard, after a few local residents alerted Town Hall to the situation. The Selectboard will consult with Tree Warden Brad Bordewieck before making any further decisions.
Bob Allen, one of the Gas Engine Show’s organizers, discussed the issue with the Selectboard on Wednesday.
“I didn’t realize it was gonna be an issue taking those (trees) down until Mary (Lightner, who lives on South Street) called me on Monday (April 1),” Allen told the Selectboard.
Previously, Allen noted the Selectboard gave the group permission in November to use the field this year.
“We figured we were doing the same thing, just like we used to do with the old lot,” Allen said.
Normally, when a field is prepared for an event like the Gas Engine Show, “overgrowth” is cleared ahead of time, Allen said. “Once we started cutting, that’s when we found out that that wasn’t part of our deal.”
Allen said he had given his contact information to people living near Pratt’s Field.
“We want to work with the town,” he said. “We’re all town members ourselves.”
Lightner, in a prepared statement that she delivered to the Selectboard, pointed out that Pratt Field is owned by “the Inhabitants of the Town of Bernardston, through its Board of Selectmen,” and that per Massachusetts General Laws, a fine of $500 could be imposed on the sponsors of the Gas Engine Show for the damages.
The Gas Engine Show is a fundraiser for the United Church of Bernardston, and there was some discussion about how appropriate it would be to fine the church for the mistake.
“In my personal opinion,” said Stanley Garland, Selectboard chairman, “I wouldn’t like to see the rest of that row taken down. I would like to see it cleaned up … but I think the tree warden should have the decision on that. … I think, probably, the fine is going to be issued. I’m not saying it’s 100 percent going to be, but it’s something we have to look at.”
“Nobody’s looking to hurt anybody here,” he said. “It’s just one of those things that happened, and we need to fix it. … We want to make it look good again for the neighbors in that area, and we want to do the right thing. I think we can work through this, and I appreciate everybody being calm about it tonight.”
Contact Max Marcus:
413-772-0261, ext. 261