Preserve & restore the Newton Free Library parking lot tree canopy; don’t replace it with solar carports

Library trees center berm summer 2015

The following letter was sent to our members and friends, from Barbara Darnell, on behalf of fellow directors Penny Caponigro, Katherine Howard, Ron Joseph, Hal Lichtin, Julia Malakie, and Jack Wittenberg:

To our Newton Tree Conservancy members & friends,

This Monday, April 4, Newton’s City Council will vote on the potential installation of solar carports in the parking lot of the Newton Free Library. As proposed, the carports would require the removal of 15 parking lot trees, including an 80+-year old oak. We strongly object to this action.

To quote from a letter to the City Council from the Urban Tree Commission, “Because both trees and solar panels are contributors to climate improvement, they should not have to compete. Both offer special benefits to our environment: trees provide beauty, food and habitat for wildlife, carbon absorption and reduced storm water runoff; solar panels provide electrical power without CO2 emissions. Newton should balance both resources.”

The library parking area was designed in 1989 with 20 mature trees preserved from the undeveloped site. Most were lost over the years due to unapproved construction work and the City’s fading tree maintenance and planting budget. Eight replacement trees were planted only two years ago. We would like to see those trees grow to maturity to enhance the natural beauty of the heart of our city, which includes the Library and City Hall.

The Newton Tree Conservancy supports the City’s Sustainable Energy plan. We are in no way opposed to solar energy, which clearly has a role to play in climate improvement, and are much in favor of the City’s plan to install solar panels on building rooftops and especially at the Rumford recycling area, which do not require tree removals.

Our Library parking lot is the greenest public parking lot in Newton. We urge you to request that the City Council vote “No” on the installation of carports in the Library parking lot and that City instead finds alternate locations for solar panels, which are open and free of trees.

Please contact your City Councilors ASAP and before the Monday night vote, to express your views. Their contact information can be found on the Newton, MA website, and is attached.

Respectfully,

Barbara Darnell, for the Board of the Newton Tree Conservancy

This attachment shows more views of the current parking lot, and how it would look with solar carports, according to Ameresco Solar, Inc., the company with whom the city would contract with to build and maintain the carports.

This is the contact list for Newton city councilors.

Since we sent this email, many people have thanked us for bringing this to their attention, and have sent us copies of the letter they wrote to their city councilors. We appreciate your effort, and hope the City Council will choose to preserve our Library parking lot’s trees.