Chalk this one up as a “near miss.” I had just finished up a long run on Sunday morning and was getting into the shower when I heard a “crash” outside and the sound of brakes, not to mention the shouts of the runners doing Brendan’s Home Run passing by on Cross St. When I looked out the window, I saw the reason: a huge limb had broken off a tree in front of my neighbor’s house, with part of the limb laying across the front of a car. As my neighbor explained it: the drivers of the car (mom, dad and their six year old) were new neighbors of ours further down on Cross. They had just moved in and were out for a Sunday drive.
As they turned off Farnham and started up Cross (slowly), this sucker dropped off a street tree, bounced on the road and landed an their car, denting their bumper. As often is the case with these things, the mind boggles at how much worse this could have been if the car had, say, been traveling at the 30mph or so that’s typical on Cross, or if it had been five or ten feet further down the road than it was when the limb fell.
This sucker was heavy – I could barely budge it and it took my neighbor, and both adult drivers of the car to pull it over to the side of the street. A truck from the town came by later in the day and removed the limb. Frankly – if it had landed on the passenger compartment with the car moving at a decent speed, this could have been a fatal accident. There was no wind to speak of when the limb fell, though it had been raining. Although my neighbor claims the town had come to inspect this tree recently, the limb appeared to have been badly worm eaten and weakened. My guess is that the weight of the heavy rains that morning and the wet leaves was what ultimately caused it to drop off.
I’m not sure if there’s any lesson here — limbs fall off trees all the time. Some of them fall on the roads. We all take chances every time we step outside our homes (or out of bed, for that matter.) I, personally, had a near miss with a falling icicle on Milk St. in Boston this past winter. If I’d lingered for 15 or 20 seconds at any point on my way back to my office, I’d have been killed — so what can you do? (I treated myself to Starbucks, in case you’re curious.)
On the other hand, I don’t think you can entirely chalk this stuff up to chance. The fact is: three decades ago, towns like Belmont and Watertown employed full time crews of employees just to manage their street trees. Those positions have long since been cut. Today, Belmont does better than most towns — contracting with a private company for tree maintenance. According to the most recent data, 74 dead and dangerous trees were removed in 2007, and other, storm damaged trees were repaired. Other maintenance was done in response to resident requests, according to the Tree Warden’s report. Day to day, care and maintenance of street trees isn’t something that most people notice or miss — until you see the 300 lb. tree limb break off and nearly kill someone — then you realize that the trees, like the roads, are all just public infrastructure and resources that need to be cared for and maintained. My 2c.