The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, December 7, 2001


River Road tree-cutting may violate scenic roads bylaw

Last Friday, November 16, Carlisle resident Joe Campagna of Bedford Road, who was clearing his property at the corner of Bedford and River Roads in order to erect a horse barn, cut trees on land abutting River Road in violation of the scenic roads bylaw. The clearing appears to have continued after visits by the police to advise Campagna of a possible violation. The penalty, to be determined at a meeting with the selectmen on December 11, could involve fines or other compensation for the loss of mature trees.
Few trees are left standing at the intersection of River Road and Bedford Road.(Photo by Rik Pierce)

According to dispatcher Mike Taplin, the police became involved when a neighbor of the Campagnas, Dana Booth, called at 1:32 p.m. to report that trees were being cleared on town property. Sergeant Leo Crowe responded to the call and spoke to the person operating the machinery and Campagna, advising them of the complaint and the possible violation. According to Crowe, Campagna said the lot had been surveyed, and he was confident he was cutting on his own land. He also expressed surprise at the complaint, saying he had informed his neighbors of the cutting before it began. According to Crowe, "I advised him to stay within property boundaries. Beside that, what do we do?"

In the meantime, Lieutenant John Sullivan paged tree warden Gary Davis who suggested looking for markers to indicate property boundaries. A call by Taplin to the town assessors' office revealed there was no town lot on the land in question. The police remained unclear as to the nature of the violation, or whether a violation had even occurred, until 2:50 p.m. when conservation administrator Sylvia Willard appeared at the station with a copy of the scenic roads bylaw and spoke to Sullivan. Sullivan then visited the Campagnas to show them the bylaw. At 3:58 another call came in from Booth reporting that cutting was continuing in spite of the warnings. At that time Sergeant Thomas Whelan was sent out and reported that cutting had ended for the day.

A later visit to the site by Davis and Whelan on November 19 determined that Campagna had cut trees on land protected by the scenic roads bylaw. At that time Davis advised Campagna to stop cutting by the road until a determination could be made as to where town land ends. The bylaw protects the appearance of a scenic way by designating a protected fifty-foot wide swath (See side-bar this page). River Road is a designated scenic road. Usually the swath is determined by measuring twenty-five feet on each side from the road's center line, but this is not always the case. According to Davis, "There are definitely trees missing on town property. How many, we're still trying to determine."

Neighber Kathy Booth spoke to the frustration of watching trees cut and having no recourse to stop it. The Booths were knowledgeable about the boundaries of the Campagna's lot because a relative had owned it at one time. "Dana had walked the property with Joe [Campagna] and showed him where the stone markers were. When they started cutting on town land, we talked to the cutter, but he wouldn't stop. We called Town Hall and the police, but it seemed nothing could be done." Booth then added, "We don't want to be difficult neighbors. We like these people [the Campagnas] they're nice. But they need to play by the rules the rest of the town does."

When asked why the cutting wasn't stopped, police chief David Galvin defended the actions of his officers. "We advised them [the Campagnas], but we can't stop them per se. We can't just arrest them," said Galvin, adding that even if that action had seemed appropriate, the bylaw makes no provision for arrest of a violator.

Selectman John Ballantine reported that he has had several calls from neighbors upset over the loss of screening. "The cutting has changed the visibility. Some significant work needs to be done to replace what's been lost."

Several calls were made to the Campagnas, but as of last Wednesday, were not returned.

Carlisle's scenic roads

Chapter 40, Section 15C of the General Laws permits a town to designate any road, other than a numbered route or state highway, as a scenic road. Once so designated, a 50-foot swath, roughly 25 feet each side of the center of the road, is protected. The bylaw states:

"After a road has been designated as a scenic road any repair, maintenance, reconstruction, or paving work done with respect thereto shall not involve or include the cutting or removal of trees, or the tearing down or destruction of stone walls, or portions thereof, except with the prior written consent of the planning board....after a public hearing duly advertised twice in a newspaper..."

Carlisle has designated the following as scenic roads:

Acton Street Brook Street

Cross Street Curve Street

Concord Street East Street

Fiske Street Lowell Street

Maple Street North Road

Pope Road Prospect St.

River Road Russell Street

Rutland Street School St.

Skelton Road South Street

Sunset Road West Street

2001 The Carlisle Mosquito