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Arnold Arboretum

Tree vandals target city parks

October 2, 2012

Boston Parks and Recreation

Cut burl; Boston Parks.

The Boston Parks and Recreation Department is reporting an increase in tree vandalism cases in City parks, specifically an invasive and deadly form of theft that targets unique features known as burls. The public’s help is requested in identifying the culprits of these crimes.

Parks Department Arborist Greg Mosman explains that a burl is a growth abnormality that can appear anywhere on the tree trunk. Because of their rarity and unique grain pattern, burls are highly desired for woodworking, sculpture, and inlays on the interiors of high-end automobiles.

The damage was first noticed about six months ago and has increased with a dozen locations hit in the Emerald Necklace, mostly in Franklin Park, and a more recent attack on a tree reported at Evans Way Park on the Fenway on October 2.

Mosman says the vandals use chainsaws to remove the burls, inflicting scars and injuries that adversely affect the overall health of the tree and can eventually lead to its death. He notes that no particular species seems targeted with the victims so far including oaks, hemlocks, and lindens.

“It’s all over the map,” he reports, adding that it has yet to be determined whether the burls are being stolen for sale, personal use by woodworkers, or a combination of both. Additional cases have been reported in the neighboring communities of Brookline and Watertown with vandals sometimes using ropes to get up into the trees.

The Parks Department is asking the public’s assistance by reporting any unusual activities, especially anyone climbing trees or using chainsaws in City parks, to call the Boston Police at 911. Anyone with information can also call the PARKline at 617.635.7275 or the Mayor’s Hotline at 617.635.4500.

“This vandalism is an attack on us all,” noted Boston Parks Commissioner Antonia Pollak. “These trees are public property in parks owned by the City and funded by Boston’s taxpayers. These selfish attacks trying to capture the beauty of the wood could kill the very trees that created it.”


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