Belmont, MA – October 17, 2014, 9am – Four Cambridge residents were arrested this morning for trespassing within the Silver Maple Forest presently being clear-cut. Signs along Acorn Park Drive in Belmont with over 20 supporters read, “No climate change,” “Don’t cut our floodplain silver maple trees,” “Stop the cutting before it’s too late.” The arrests follow years of organizing to defend the Silver Maple Forest, an invaluable floodplain for Cambridge, Belmont, and Arlington.
O’Neill Properties of Pennsylvania has been the major backer of the development, which would include 300 mainly luxury units and 60 affordable units. Belmont has not yet determined final permitting. Cambridge continues with Hearings and Policy Orders concerning the property as well.
Organizers aim to draw attention to the commencement earlier this week of clear-cutting of eight acres of woodlands in Belmont and Cambridge. Earlier this week, five conscientious objectors trespassed to tie pink protection ribbons on many trees to call attention to tree felling in the Upper Alewife Basin’s only regional floodplain forest. Major cutting was seen this morning on the site and prompted the conscientious acts of civil disobedience.
“People are acting out of their own conscience, and many have never before been arrested but consider this a serious environmental crime, especially in this era of climate change,” said Ellen Mass, an organizer who has been drawing attention to the forest for years.
The arrests were peaceful and without incident. Dana Demetrio, Sylvia Gillman, Ben Beckwith, and Paula Sharaga were escorted by police out of the forest after refusing to leave when asked to do so. They say permits are “up in the air” in Belmont and it is nonsensical to clear-cut before building permits are approved.
A City of Cambridge Climate Vulnerability study has been delayed four times. The study would demonstrate the invaluable services provided by the 15-acre floodplain forest, which has stood for 60 years.
This is a “crime against nature” said protester Lois Solomon. Madeleine Sis, a student at Lesley who was arrested at Silver Maple Forest on Tuesday October 14th, said that “each tree falling is like a human dying because people will pay dearly as more flooding happens.” Another witness of conscience said, “Clear-cutting trees in floodplains, which provide a safety net for tens of thousands of people in the Mystic River watershed, is criminal. Those allowing the Silver Maple Forest to be developed should not be allowed to walk free but should face severe penalties.”
At 7:00 AM this Monday, October 20th, a wide range of groups, organizations, and individuals will hold another rally at the clear-cutting staging ground down the road from 15 Acorn Park Dr. More individuals will be called to take an act of civil disobedience. That same day, the Cambridge City Council will hear a Policy Order that no Cambridge property may be used for the development, which is problematic for the developer whose design plans include land in Cambridge. An injunction has been filed to stop the tree felling in Court.
Trees are falling, but people of conscience are making sure they are heard.