Great Barrington's Main Street renovation resumes with pear tree removal

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Photo Gallery | Tree removal in Great Barrington

GREAT BARRINGTON — The $6.2 million renovation work along the Main Street corridor resumed on Monday, and among the first orders of business is the removal of the pear trees that line each side of Main Street.

This was a bone of contention during the planning phase of the work three years ago, and while most local merchants aren't thrilled about it, most also realize the work needs to be done.

"I hate to see them go," said Susan Pevzner, owner of Jack's Country Squire at 316 Main St.. "I remember how beautiful they looked in the spring. But they're old and bent over and their roots have pushed up parts of the sidewalk."

Pevzner in particular is keenly aware of the inconveniences caused by an uneven sidewalk. A foot injury several years ago put her on crutches for several weeks, and negotiating the uneven surface was "agonizing."

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"Tell me about it," said Mark McGovern, longtime sales associate at Tune Street, another Main Street business. McGovern had an ankle injury a few years ago as well, "and my doc told me to stay away from angled surfaces. I said, 'It ain't gonna happen where I work, doc.' Not with that sidewalk."

The town has faced several complaints from residents and visitors tripping over upraised portions of the walk.

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The Main Street project began last July, and work continued until Dec. 22. This phase is expected to last through the summer. The overall plan is to improve the drainage, lighting, signalization, sidewalks and roads along a portion of road from Cottage Street to Taconic Avenue.

Town Engineer Joseph Sokol said later in the week, Maxymilian Construction Corp. of Pittsfield is expected to begin "saw cutting" the sidewalks on both sides of the street. The idea, Sokol said, is to cut up and be able to replace the individual segments of the sidewalk in phases to facilitate pedestrian access to businesses and residences on the street, as well as to allow pedestrians to traverse the Main Street corridor north to south.

"We've been through a couple of these projects now at our other stores," said Robert Raser, vice president of Carr Hardware. Carr has branches in Lee, Pittsfield and North Adams as well as Great Barrington. "So I feel like an expert in road projects. We know there's going to be disruption, but it is what it is. Maymilian did an outstanding job in the first phase last year keeping the traffic moving; the best job of any project we've been a part of. We have to root for them to keep the traffic moving during this phase and to get through this as quickly as possible."

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And as for the trees, town officials point out that they will be replaced. In fact, according to tree specialist Thomas Ingersoll of Sheffield, a consultant on the project, more trees will be planted than are presently there now.

"I think the buzzword for this phase of the project will be diversity," he said. "We will be seeing a number of different trees along the corridor."

Ingersoll said that among the 93 trees slated for planting, there will be elm, maple, oak, cherry, crabapple, hawthorne and yellowwood. The tree bases will have a deeper soil base, as well.

In addition, said Ingersoll, the harvested wood from the project will be collected and used for a "wood bank" with the wood slated to heat local homes next year.

Contact Derek Gentile at 413-496-6251.


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