Requiem for a stately sugar maple

(Emily Thurlow) Deb Descognets contemplates the fate of the 200-year-old sugar maple at a mock funeral for the tree last Friday.

GREAT BARRINGTON — The fate of a 200-year-old sugar maple may not be clear-cut just yet, but that didn’t stop a group of concerned residents from mourning its potential loss last Friday.

A group of nearly 20 people, donning dark attire, processed from the front of Mason Library, through the downtown along the sidewalk to Mahaiwe Street where they were met by the skirl of bagpipes.

The mock processional and funeral was held on Arbor Day as a way to bring further awareness to the issue of preserving and how much the neighborhood would change if a new housing development were to replace it, said Great Barrington resident Holly Hamer.

“We’re dead serious about this,” she said.

As piper Mike Dalton of the Berkshire Highlanders continued to play, residents began to circle the tree. Some looped rope around two hearts and tied them around the tree. Hamer eulogized the tree, encouraging residents to show their support and continue to “help stop the death” of the sugar maple.

“This is a great tree. Just look at it. Now picture this lot without it, replaced by a bunker-style, three-story, stuccoed, mansard-roofed apartment building, which borrows its aesthetic from the Holiday Inn Express,” she said.

The mock processional and funeral follows a Planning Board vote last week that approved the site plan for the Highfield on Main project led by TOPA Enterprises LLC. Because of citizen concerns, developers for the four-building complex altered then plans in an effort to save the tree, said Shawn P. Leary of Lee-based Michael J. Considine & Shawn P. Leary Attorneys at Law. Leary attended the planning board meeting and spoke on behalf of the owners of the project.

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