Autumn in the North Cemetery.

Sixty miles west of Boston, Massachusetts there is the small New England town of Sturbridge. Located at the junction of I-90 (The Mass Pike), and I-84 it has become known as the "Crossroads of New England". The town was first settled over 300 years ago, and like other small New England towns it has grown just enough over the years to be in a difficult place today. How do we embrace the future without forgetting how we got to our present? How do we attract the right kind of growth, and maintain who we are? And, what about our culture out here in Central Massachusetts?

These pages will cause one to think about how to protect what we have, our future direction, and how to move on in the very best way.

Those thoughts, and other ramblings, will hopefully inspire more thought, conversation, action, and occasionally a smile...

...seems to be working so far

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

It's Not Easy Staying Green

The following letter, and photograph were sent to me this evening, along with permission to post it. I believe that it is a good thing to hear from the other side of the tree. Too often we hear from only one direction.


If we’re going to make a mountain out of a molehill, or a forest out of a tree, let’s at least get our facts straight.

McGilpin Road is going to be paved. As part of that work, Tom Chamberland, the Tree Warden, walked along the Road, looked at the trees, and guessed at which ones were “Hazard” Trees. There is no written standard or by-law in the Town of Sturbridge defining what constitutes a Hazard Tree - the Tree Warden just relies on his gut. Or, as he told me at one meeting, if the DPW director feels a tree might be in the way, the Tree Warden designates it as a Hazard Tree. The 150+/- year-old oak across from 117 McGilpin Road, a.k.a. Tree 25, was labeled a Hazard Tree under this less than rigorous “system”.

One of the residents on the Road called a licensed arborist. This arborist conducted a resistograph test on Tree 25. The resistograph’s motor drives a specially engineered drill bit into the wood at a constant speed and graphs the results on a waterproof wax paper printout. As the drill penetrates the wood, resistance is used to determine decay presence or absence. This test indicated that Tree 25 was not rotted, or in danger of falling, and that further inquiry was warranted. If that test had showed that the Tree was in poor health, I, as well as all the neighbors I spoke to, agreed that it should be cut down.

At the Planning Board hearing of September 27, 2007, more than a dozen McGilpin Road residents asked that Tree 25 not be designated a “hazard” tree under the Shade Tree By-law or the Scenic Road By-law until further investigation into its health was done.
Mr. Creamer, who, as Planning Board Chairman, is responsible for preserving trees along scenic roads in Town, rejected the idea of a continuance and stated that the residents should appeal the Shade Tree By-law to the Board of Selectmen. The residents were disappointed that he was not responsive to their concerns, but assumed they could go forward in good faith.

Linda Cocalis and I spoke to the Tree Warden after the meeting. He told us then, and repeatedly from that day forward, that he would love to preserve large, old Heritage Trees like this one, throughout Town. He also told us that he didn’t have the funds, the manpower, or a Tree Committee with the infrastructure that would allow him to do so. Linda and I asked if the Tree was healthy, if we could get the funding, and if we helped the Tree Warden form a Tree Committee, would he be comfortable preserving this and other Heritage Trees? He told us repeatedly that that would solve all his problems and allow him to bring tree care to the next level in Sturbridge.

Linda Cocalis found a grant for the Tree Warden to apply for at the DCR. She helped him gather his data and called the DCR repeatedly, lobbying hard for this grant. She argued that a Tree Warden who was trying to bring tree care to the next level, coupled with a neighborhood that cared about their heritage trees, deserved this grant. Mr. Chamberland applied for the grant, and got two thousand dollars to preserve five trees on McGilpin Road all of which are smaller in diameter than Tree 25. However, he purposefully left Tree 25 off of the grant application.

I hired an arborist to examine the Tree with a resistograph and write a full report on the Tree. Mr. Chamberland attended and witnessed the examination by the arborist of Tree 25. Mr. Chamberland not only questioned the arborist regarding the use of a resistograph, which he had never used, but he also chose many of the spots that the arborist tested. The arborist determined that the Tree was in good health, but that it would be beneficial to install three cables ($150-250 apiece) and do some pruning ($200-300) to promote its ideal health. Considering that Mr. Chamberland estimated that it would cost $1000 to cut Tree 25 down, not to mention $300-500 for stump removal, and that with the proposed work Tree 25 might live for decades, the cost seemed within reason to Linda, Mr. Chamberland and myself.

Linda and I then worked many hours to help Mr. Chamberland create the Town Tree Committee, including identifying potential projects for the Tree Committee, drafting by-laws and standards, drafting a proposal for the Board of Selectmen and even finding people willing to sit on the Tree Committee. We had long meetings and phone calls with Mr. Chamberland. We also sent all of our drafts to Mr. Chamberland to confirm that all was in accordance with his vision for tree care in Town. We did this work not only to preserve Tree 25, but for all of the Town’s Heritage Trees.

Mr. Chamberland and I made a joint presentation to the Board of Selectmen (all of which had been reviewed and pre-approved by Mr. Chamberland). The Board agreed to revoke Tree 25’s Hazard status, based on the arborist’s report and Mr. Chamberland’s recommendation, and to allow the formation of a Tree Committee, despite the fact that Mr. Chamberland was suddenly very negative about the proposal at the meeting.

Why had Mr. Chamberland switched gears and become so negative? And why did he ask for funding to be approved at the Special Town Meeting, instead of as part of his overall budget in April? I did not support this funding request. I feel that it was inappropriate to request non-emergency funds outside of the annual budget.

Why did he tell the Finance Committee that Tree 25 should be cut down, despite the fact that he was asking them for funding to preserve it? When the Finance Committee voted “no action”, effectively removing the item from the Special Town Meeting, why did Mr. Chamberland then make a special motion during the meeting to put the issue back up for vote? Why did he ask the residents at the January 28, 2008 Town Meeting to deny the funding that he had just proposed again? Linda and I certainly did not ask him to.

Perhaps because Mr. Creamer, our Chairman of the Planning Board, has made cutting this tree down his cause célèbre. He wants you to focus on one tree rather than larger issues like sewer or a new elementary school. Mr. Creamer (who does not even live on McGilpin Road) has written countless vindictive blog and newspaper reports regarding Tree 25. Mr. Creamer has posted satellite pictures of the neighborhood on his blog, with derogatory commentary. He has, in letters and articles in the local newspapers, in his blog and verbally at televised public meetings, mocked the proposed Town Tree Committee and ridiculed the funding proposed by the Tree Warden to safeguard Tree 25 and other trees in Sturbridge.

From the September 27 Planning Board Hearing to the present, Mr. Creamer has harassed the residents of McGilpin Road, the Selectmen and the Goodwin family regarding Tree 25. Is Mr. Chamberland afraid of Mr. Creamer? Maybe. Or maybe he and his brother Russ Chamberland (who is on the Planning Board) have jumped onto Mr. Creamer’s bandwagon.

Don’t blame the Selectmen for doing what their Tree Warden, a group of residents and scientific evidence indicated they should do. Don’t vilify McGilpin Road residents or the Goodwins because you disagree on this small issue. Finally, keep your eye on the ball. Mr. Creamer should stop spreading bile and start doing his job and conduct himself as an unbiased, productive Planning Board Chairman for the Town of Sturbridge.

Finally, Mr. Creamer, despite your claims, I am not a coward, a bully, or an elitist, nor am I disgusting. This is the first time I have written a word about this Tree in any forum. I did not leave Mr. Chamberland in the lurch – quite the opposite. I am a resident of Sturbridge, a mother and an attorney that is trying to take care of my family while donating time and energy to my hometown. I make excellent cheesecake, need to lose 15 pounds (maybe a little more) and play guitar very poorly. In other words, I’m an average person who deserves a little respect from their town officials.

The people you have targeted are good, honest, caring people who are invested in the town they call home. Take a break Mr. Creamer, and try to remember that whether a tree falls or not, we are all still neighbors.

Kirstie L. Pecci
138 McGilpin Road
Sturbridge, MA 01566


  1. "Its not easy staying green"....guess your following statement went down the tubes with
    this one, not only did the writer defame Mr. Creamer, also got the Tree Warden..not saying the writer is right or wrong just disappointed in your decision to run the article here

    "There is no political agenda, nor is there any intent to embarrass town officials , or others... just thinking. Hopefully some of those thoughts will be cause for more thought, conversation, action, and occasionally, a smile."

  2. You are right, it is not my intent to embarrass town officials, and I won't. Doesn't seem to be needed for most, they seem to do alright in that department all by themselves. However, we have constantly heard, and read, about one side of the issue. Over, and over again. When I was asked to post the letter I saw no reason not to. Equal time. It is one persons report of how things occured, she was there. It is the opposite of what most of us have known. Let's not talk about defaming anybody, she expressed an opinion, and asked a question. And, she also reported her interpretation of what the Tree Warden had, and had not done.

    Nothing wrong with expressing opposing points of view. One has their own venue to do so, she chose this one. Don't be disappointed, be greatful that this site doesn't swing one way like other places do. Everyone will always have their turn at bat.
    You had yours today, and so did I.
    Thanks for sharing. It makes the system work.

  3. Dear Thinking: I appreciate that you posted this letter to your blog. The media seems to be missing the entire story and is completely lopside, although they exist to sell newspapers, right? Also, I wish I had known these facts before the special town meeting. It's obvious that the issue has been blown way out of proportion (mountain out of molehill) by certain individuals. It's obviously less about the tree, and more about insulting and attacking residents in the town.

    If the tree was on my street, you can be sure I would work to preserve. It would add to the quality of life for me and my neighbors. In fact it would cost less to preserve the tree, than cut it down. The only thing wrong with this picture is that one town official is manipulating the "system".

    And to Disappointed: not sure why you make it so personal?

  4. If I made it personal, it was what I preceive to be going against the principal of this blog. not personal against a person. And I'm taking your question as just that, a question not an attack.

  5. Funny thing is, I can see clearly, despite the trees.

    Think about it, this is about a tree that some folks wanted to save. They spent money to study the tree, brought it before the powers that be, and won an approval. As a result they were belittled, harassed, and attacked not once, but repeatedly by others. This Tree Affair became very personal.

    As far as the principal of this blog goes, well, there are no principals of this blog, just my own. And, my principals regarding equal time, fair play, and integrity (note no quotes around the word integrity)are very high.

    "There is no political agenda, nor is there any intent to embarrass town officials , or others... just thinking. Hopefully some of those thoughts will be cause for more thought, conversation, action, and occasionally, a smile."

    All I'm doing is thinking, and causing more thought, and conversation.

    Last night I thought I would post that letter, so I Thought Out Loud.

  6. I enjoyed reading this letter from Mrs. Pecci. I cannot recall reading a better "fiction" reads I have had in a while.

    Mrs. Pecci seems to discount the many residents who wrote letters to the editor in support of removing the tree.

    Is Mr. Creamer responsible for that? Is Mr. Creamer responsible for influencing the nearly 200 hundred voters who cast a no vote relative to saving the tree?

    Did Mr. Creamer force me and other residents of McGilpin Road who have lived here most of our lives to attend the meeting and vote no?

    Did Mr. Creamer drag us through this nonsense of saving a tree despite the hundreds and hundreds of trees we have all cut down to build the nice homes here on McGilpin?

    Did Mr. Creamer kidnap the. Chamberlands and hold them prisoner until they screamed "uncle"?

    No, not at all. In fact what Mr. Creamer did was demonstrate just how mixed up priorities can be when a tree takes on such importance while people need money for heat, food, or additional time at the Senior Center.

    I applaud Mr. Creamer, and the Chamberlands, for I believe them to be persons of character who understand what is really important and what really makes a community. It is not a tree, nor a street that defines a community, but rather the compassion, love, and assistance that we extend to human beings in need.

    We should be ashamed of ourselves for even considering this tree important when living, breathing people are in great need within our own community.

    Flesh and blood.

  7. I think it’s wonderful that you posted the letter from Mrs. Pecci. She certainly deserves to have her viewpoint expressed as well. Kudos to you.

    What is disturbing however is that the only side listened to during the tree appeal was Mrs. Pecci’s. Not one argument by the Tree Warden, the Deputy Tree Warden, nor residents in opposition was given any serious consideration by the selectmen.

    It was obvious watching the meeting that the decision had already been made

    During meetings with the selectmen, Mr. Morse, and Mr. Chamberland over the last several years, many of us expressed our desire to have the road paved and widened throughout for safety reasons and convenience. Despite our wishes the selectmen decided in favor of a few residents who wanted to preserve the country road look.

    Our vehicles have had it up to their fenders and bumpers with the country road look.

    Mrs. Pecci does not speak for the majority of residents on McGilpin Road, and she certainly is not our appointed representative.

    We have waited long enough to have this road upgraded and widened, and we are fed up with a handful of neighbors making decisions for the rest of us.

    Tired of bumps and narrow passage.

  8. It seems to me the bigger issue is not the direct and immediate cost associated with keeping Tree 25, nor the direct and immediate cost associated with removing Tree 25. Rather, it is the associated and necessary cost to alter a public infrastructure project (public, meaning municipal funds for a municipal purpose: all of us) so that Tree 25 can remain because a few of us feel its ecological, aesthetic and perhaps historical value are so significant as to warrant this level of remedial action. In order to achieve this successfully, funds will be spent to redesign a portion of the road now. Later, once Tree 25 dies (and we know it will - it's a living thing all living things die - though the exact timing of that is unknown by our Tree Warden and the indpendent arborist who was hired) additional funds will be spent to remove it at that time (this includes a duplicate mobilization cost for the action of removal), to redesign that portion of the road and the accompanying drainage, etc., and then additional funds to actually construct those changes. So, for those who care about the bottom line, it's much, much larger than $1600.

    As for the issues of safety, at no time has our Tree Warden changed his determination. I find it interesting that a layperson, Ms. Pecci, seems to have suddenly developed an expertise in tree health and the mechanisms by which such health (or disease) is determined. She muddies the issue by suggesting that the Tree Warden calls a tree hazardous if the DPW director needs it removed. That's not the issue, the issue is the health (or lack thereof) of Tree 25 specifically. The Tree Warden explained to the PB all of the indicators (similar to symptoms, in humans) that lead him to conclude Tree 25, in particular, was in fact hazardous. Further, given the road improvments that are planned, Tree 25 will be severely impacted (in its root zone) by that construction alone, further compromising its health and safety.

    The resistograph test drilled into Tree 25 only a portion of the full depth of it's trunk. The fact that the outer wood did not indicate significant decay tells us nothing about the health of the inner wood. Perhaps that's why the arborist's recommendation was to take remedial action if Tree 25 was to remain standing: cabling, pruning, etc. If the tree were not hazardous, then no remedial action would be necessary, it would be fine as is. But, its not.

    Ms. Pecci chastizes Mr. Creamer for making, in her opinion, derrogatory remarks about various individuals. Yet, she will write patronizingly about our Tree Warden who "guessed" at which trees were hazardous and who, "just relies on his gut." Those are not respectful characterizations, and they weren't phrased as questions nor presented as her opinion. As Ms. Pecci wrote those words, she wrote them as statements.

    As for the Tree Warden's position on the issue, I wouldn't begin to make assumptions about his thought process or why he decided to "support" the staying of Tree 25. I have my opinions, but they're only opinions.

    Fruther, Ms. Pecci asks us not to blame the Selectmen for doing what the Tree Warden, a few residents, and (selected and limited) scientific evidence indicated they should do. I guess I have to ask why then didn't the Selectmen listen to the Tree Warden in the first place. Either the Tree Warden's determinations are founded, justified and to be trusted, or they are not. A curious situation, indeed.

    Finally, Ms. Pecci states that she is not a, "coward, a bully, or an elitist...." I'm quite certain I've never read that Mr. Creamer called her any of those names. I believe what I read was Mr. Creamer's characterizations of her ACTIONS, as distinct from her PERSONHOOD. Perhaps a subtle distinction, but a signicant one nonetheless.

  9. Dear Disappointed: "defame Mr. Creamer"...have you looked at his blog lately? Talk about defamation, let's be fair. It's his choice to put that stuff out there, and his choice to treat it as he does.

    For someone who talks about "a small but vocal group" he's doing alright creating his own, then boasts about it; it's hypocritical. Go ahead and be disappointed, but it doesn't make sense.

  10. Crapola,

    It didn't seem to be such a small group at Special Town Meeting.

    Come on at least he backs everything up with facts. Sure his opinion is mingled throughout, but it's his blog. Haven't seen anyone yet be able to challenge his facts. Hard to do when they all come from video or minutes.

    People read it for many reasons. If they don't like it they can tune it out. We're adults, we make choices, and we live with them

    We all need to be real.

  11. Dear Being Real: We all know that not everything we read, see or hear is factual. If a person had as much time to devote as that blogmaster does in dispensing "the facts", folks would definitely be enlightened.

    Unfortunately, most people tend to follow rather than lead. Also, we know that when a person agrees with anothers point of view, it's hard to convince someone otherwise, even when presented with facts.

    In "being real", as is your moniker, we all have dayjobs to go to that keep us real, and families that keep us very busy. Mr. Creamer's blog is his JOB. To counter what's on his blog would require a full time individual, constantly knocking on that other blogs door. Who has that time and energy, and would the comments be posted? Notice that until recently, there are no opinions posted there that are contrary to his - because he doesn't allow them. You can believe him if you wish, that's your choice.

    Most people have families they eat dinner and spend time with, hold full time jobs, hobbies, and other interests besides finding ways to dismantle local government. His blog and its ramblings are disproportionate to everyday real life for most folks, but it is winning favor with residents based on innuendo, coiled and perverted "facts", and it lacks integrity.

    After watching various meetings myself, then visiting the other blog, the fact that the word "integrity" is in quotes should shed some light to all as to "truths" he is dispensing. The "truth" is his perception of truth. You say his opinion is "comingled". Actually, his opinion dominates it, but as you say, it's his blog. You ask for facts: Mrs. Pecci's letter is her truth and she presents facts as she knows them to be true, and look what happened here.

    Thinking's blog put it out here, and the fact is, the other blog and his "followers" don't want to read it, see it or consider it. They're convinced it's trash and state so in a most humiliating, debilitating and cutting way. Mr. Creamer said to Mrs. Pecci that she was "disgusting". And he has said that to Mrs. Pecci's mother, as well. Did you know these facts, Mr. Real? How would you like it if someone said that your wife or mother? What he does that you do not know about is also fact. And people who have experienced Mr. Creamer and his most maniacal personality and insults firsthand, do not go back for a second dose.

    Please tell me how those insults l fit in here. There is no middle ground - he does not allow it - and even when facts are presented, they are mocked, ridiculed and executed.

    On his blog, the word "integrity" is mocked to an unbelievable extreme. What he "backs up" with his "facts" are quotations, video clips and soundbites taken out of context.

    How this tree issue became such a big deal is beyond me. If I lived on the street, I would probably want the tree to stay right where it is, too. But that's just me. As a resident, I'm entitled to want things that enhance my street and my neighborhood. You are too. Nice to come home to after a long days work, marvel at the big tree on your street as you end the day approaching your driveway. Quality of life is the point, and that is a fact.

  12. To Thinking Out Loud: I wanted to say thanks for posting my comment, and go on record as saying that when I sent my comments to Mr. Creamer, my comment had not yet been posted here, and given your notification of no more postings, I had no reason to believe it would be. I am glad to see I was wrong. I will be posting this same comment on Mr. Creamer's blog. Thank you.

  13. Wow, dismantled you're quite worked up. Sounds like someone is just a bit overly emotional which only leads to a poor argument.

    Ya kicked and screamed a bit but offered no facts, no credible points worth considering.

    Creamer never called Mrs. Pecci or her mother disgusting as you claim, what he wrote was the following "You simply do not subject individuals to this type of nonsense and then sit back and let others carry the water for you. How disgusting and how very telling".

    Pretty clear he's referencing the approach taken by Pecci, not who she is or isn't as a person. But heck, why let the facts get in the way of the truth?

    And geez almighty; quotes, videos and soundbites taken out of context, what are you reading during those open houses?

    Ya might want to sit back and chill a bit, you seem to be really angry. How is anyone supposed to have intelligent communication with you taking off like a Twister?

  14. Dear Mr. Creamer: Here, you present youself disguised as an anonymous writer, Really Real.

    Instead of taking the low road, why not provide some objective, worthwhile discussion?

    Why aren't you working on updating the Master Plan, or working with Chamber executives toward meeting ecotourism goals (as outlined in the recent study they had done), or even just working on coming up with ideas to meet the town's challenges? Isn't that your job as an appointed planning official?

    Everything I said above is true.
    No, there's no emotion in what I wrote, or what I'm writing now, except that I see a town divided; that does bother me. And there is that nagging reminder of how obtuse and narrow-minded you can be, which is what your blog is made of.

    Why not comment on my statements pertaining to Mr. Halterman, or Mr. Moran's business instead of taking the low road - without emotion and anger?

    As an appointed official, I ask you, at what stage is the towns' new master plan? Are you working toward promoting ecotourism in Sturbridge?

    What are your thoughts of the idea that has been proposed to expand Old Sturbridge Village into a Disney meets Daniel Boone type of entity, so that families can stay inside the OSV fences - a "Village Green" if you will? All within walking distance of downtown Sturbridge and other businesses. Are you even aware of it? Do you support it, hate it, have any ideas or input?

    OSV is what Sturbridge was built up around, and my thought is that if they expand their business by engaging the best of both worlds (new and old), other businesses will expand as well. Do you have any thoughts about this?

  15. To "Stur",
    Sorry, I can't post it under the blog you intended it for with the new posting format. Please resubmit it here, and it will get posted. Thanks.

  16. This whole tree argument needs to be put into perspective. The biggest issue I have as a taxpayer is the Town is spending somewhere around $500,000 upgrading McGilpin Road for the 50 or so houses on the road which is about 1 1/2 years worth of all spending on town roads (looking at last year's Finance Committee Report) and everyone's making such a big deal about one tree. $1600 to save it or $1000 to cut it down. Come on folks, lets put this in perspective. There are 80 miles of roads in the Town of Sturbridge and the Town government has simply put too much effort over the past 2-3 years into trying to take care of a 2 mile stretch (think about spending 150% of your funds on 2.5% of your "road miles") for the level of frustration this has seemingly caused everyone.

    Maybe we should be asking the DPW Director what work ISN'T being done while all this foolishness goes on and re-evaluate priorities.

    My guess is the residents of the other 97.5% of roads in town would like to see work done in our areas in the near future.