The Sawyer Free Library’s $750,000 landscaping and parking lot construction project was not planned to begin with the removal of a very large, but diseased Norway Maple tree from the northern front of the property on Dale Avenue — but that’s what happened Monday morning.
“We weren’t holding up the project until we decided on what to do with the tree,” said the library director Carol Gray.
But, she said, Peter Dennen, the city arborist and Dan Mayer, the president of Mayer Tree Service of Essex, both advised the library that the Norway Maple in question — about 32 inches in diameter at the base — was structurally decayed “more than 50 percent,” according to Mayer, and “leaning toward a heavily traveled public street and sidewalk.”
“Due to the decay present and the target area if there should be a catastrophic failure,” Mayer wrote, “ I would recommend removal of the tree as soon as it is feasible possible.”
As recently as May 2, the library board was considering protecting the roots of the now former tree, an invasive species, from the foundation of a planned small amphitheater at the corner of the library grounds nearest Central Grammar apartments and Dale Avenue.
The first phase of the project involves regrading the replacing the walkway from the front of the library down to the side entrance and the amphitheater.
A key part of the first phase is rebuilding the handicapped-access ramp now leading off Dale Avenue to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The current ramp is deteriorating and is too steep to meet ADA standards, the library said in a release.
The second phase involves the construction of the amphitheater and steps into the property from Dale Avenue and the final phase involves the construction at the back of a paved parking lot with 35 to 36 spaces including two for handicapped parking for employees and patrons of Gloucester’s busiest public building and non-profit business — as well as its oldest.