Forest Hills Cemetery Says Pest Infestation to Blame for Widespread Tree Cutting

Swaths of the garden cemetery have been cleared of trees after an infestation by the Hemlock Wooly Adelgid.

If you've walked in lately or driven along its Walk Hill Street border, you've likely seen wide swaths of trees cut down.

A cemetery official said the trees had to be cut down because of a pest infestation — the Hemlock Wooly Adelgid.

The devastation can clearly be seen along the historic garden cemetery's Walk Hill Street fence. Other sections of the cemetery where trees have been taken down include the area between the old and new sections of the cemetery.


Is the Arboretum in Danger?

The nearby confirms it has had trouble with the wooly adelgid since 1997, though the situation is under control.

"Yes, we have lost trees," said the Arboretum's Julie Warsowe in an email to Patch, "but we have used this unfortunate situation as a research opportunity to study the effects of [Hemlock Wooly Adelgid] infestations on forests."

The creature is an "exotic pest native to Asia" according to the Arboretum's Web site.

The pest gets its name from the white, "wooly" appearance infected hemlock needles take on.

The adelgid, which is about as big as a period in this text, kills hemlocks in three to ten years, sooner if the trees are stressed from drought. A National Park Service document says if no cure is found, the eastern hemlock could go extinct like the American elm and American chestnut.


Some JP Residents Are Skeptical

Some residents who have written to JP Patch about the tree felling in the cemetery expressed concern that the cutting is because the cemetery wants more land to install plots. However, a cemetery official who did not want to be named said the tree removals are because of the Wooly Adelgid. She said trees will be replanted in place of the ones that have been removed.

William Dawes September 12, 2012 at 11:43 AM
The pest explanation may be part of the truth of why the Cemetery is cutting, but it is far from the whole truth, in my opinion. The Hemlocks are not the only trees that are being cut down. I know someone on the grounds crew in the Cemetery. And this is what he tells me: Rumor has it that the current President of the Cemetery, George Milley, believes that people are not choosing burial or cremation services at the Cemetery because he thinks people are not aware that the Cemetery is there. That is why there is a new large sign at the front entrance to the Cemetery, and may also be why the trees are coming down on Walk Hill Street. This is to open up the views into the Cemetery. Also, I'm told that the President has a plan to open up majestic views in the Cemetery. That might explain why the trees over the overlook in the new section are being taken down. There was an "island" of trees and wildlife near the new section, close where the iron statue of a stag used to stand, that is being nearly clear-cut. The Cemetery does not appear to be selectively cutting trees to me. There is clearly a sign near this clear-cut area that says that new plots will be ready in the near future in that space, so I'm not sure why the Cemetery says that this is not for new plots. In my opinion, the Cemetery is operated very poorly, and the current President is to blame.
Phil Lindsay September 12, 2012 at 01:44 PM
Makes one wonder how bad the condition is in Franklin Park where Parks is basically ignoring its forests...
RICHARD Heath September 12, 2012 at 04:44 PM
Richard Heath 42 Bourne Street Forest Hills cemetery staff are being untruthful There is an obvious management decision to widely expand cemetery burial lots. A great many parts of forest have been removed. In the past week alone an entire hillside was clearcut just above "The Sentinal" sculpture. Last year another chunk of woodland was removed nearby. Two chunks of hillside have recently been clear cut on Milton hill presumably for burial lots, Every tree is cut. I do not object to a revenue strapped cemetery making room for its business but I do object to incompetence in arboreal culture. The work just completed is nothing less than logging. The cemetery IS accurate about the Hemlock wooly adelgid. This has decimated hemlocks. The cemetery has removed dead trees along Canterbury St and is completing the work on Walk Hill They will ultimately attend to the grove along Morton Street. The Cemetery leadership is curious. They have done great work of highly skilled layered planting on Walk Hill Street to replace the hemlocks removed a year ago. Yet it butchers shrubberies around the Milmore Memorial and at Lake Hibiscus and clear cuts entire hillsides of 50 - 75 year old hardwoods. The leadership of FHC is an odd contradiction It insists by its recent cutting that Forest Hills Cemetery is private property immune to public comment yet that the cemetery successfully applied for national register status in 2004.
Charlie Christian September 12, 2012 at 04:50 PM
I refer you to: http://www.savegeorgiashemlocks.org/
William Dawes September 12, 2012 at 06:27 PM
What is the relationship of the public to Forest Hills Cemetery? I realize that it is a private non-profit organization, but does it have any responsibility to the public for how it runs the site, as it is part of the emerald necklace, and designed by Olmstead? Does it have any fiduciary responsibility to the public? What would happen if it went bankrupt after running through its trust funds? Has anyone looked at its annual public filings to see its financial health? Is there any oversight of this organization by the state or city?
Lisa Gallagher September 12, 2012 at 07:06 PM
I was walking my dog one afternoon and spotted a man marking trees with ribbon. I asked him what was up and he told me that the hemlocks are sick and that the cemetery is developing space for new plots. I then replied..hey!! won't that change the historical integrity of the cemetery. He answered that the cemetery was a business. I believe that the destruction of the educational trust and dismantling of public programing has something to do with further plot development. The Cemetery is not being honest.
Lisa Gallagher September 12, 2012 at 07:11 PM
Can they be fined by the City for cutting down healthy trees?
RICHARD Heath September 12, 2012 at 08:19 PM
RICHARD HEATH 42 Bourne Street Mr Dawes raises an important point. (Forest Hills Cemetery was NOT designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, Henry AS Dearborn did that in 1848. Nor is it part of the park system aside from being opposite Franklin Park). FHC IS on the National Register of Historic Places, but that has no teeth. ( Franklin Park is not only on the register but a designated Boston landmark and that park - for which I had much to do - is an ecological disaster/ FHC is a Massachusetts corporation with some benefits of tax exemption unclear to me. ( The Cemetery does have a real estate arm). But unlike Mt Auburn( also designed by Dearborn) it does NOT have a loyal constituency which is what is required, FHC has discouraged that Most of it is the personality of the President, some of it is the Board. But an active constituency group has never taken hold in part because of the FHC culture under the present president. We all love FHC here in JP - I've lived next to it for forty years - but we have no access to it's leadership or board of directors. Ironically Mr Milley bemoans the alleged lack of visibility of FHC that cripples his business plan. A public constituency would go a long way to help. But sharing power is not easy at FHC any more than it is with the Boston Parks Dept. (In 1991-1993 I did a tree inventory and reforestry project for FHC under the best president the cemetery has ever had since Henry Dearborn,Bud Hanson.)
Sydney Rosen September 13, 2012 at 02:38 PM
What would it take to create the kind of constituency Mr. Heath is talking about? It seems that a lot of people in JP (and perhaps elsewhere) care deeply that the cemetery retain its environmental and cultural value, even if it ultimately is a private business?
Chris Helms (Editor) September 13, 2012 at 08:35 PM
Hi Mr. Heath (and everyone on the thread). The Gazette just published an interview with Cemetery CEO George Milley, who confirms some of the tree felling is to make way for new plots: http://jamaicaplaingazette.com/2012/09/13/cemetery-tree-removal-creates-controversy/
Lisa Gallagher September 18, 2012 at 07:05 PM
The Cemetery continues to cut more trees down. I wonder how many more trees will come down?


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