Trees down: Great Barrington Main Street Deconstruction

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By Tuesday, Mar 24 News  9 Comments
Rikke Borge
Is this the barren street facade of a western mining town, or some Edward Hopper streetscape? A Boulevard of Broken Dreams? Why no, it's the new look of Great Barrington's Main Street. At 4 p.m., on March 23, 2015.

Great Barrington — It is the season of renewal and blossoming, for all but Main Street’s pear trees.

A crew from Maxymillian Technologies is busily sawing down the allee of pear trees that for 35 years has lined either side of Main Street.

The first of the 35-year-old Bradford pear trees was cut down on the east side of Main at around 8:30 a.m., in front of Emporium. As the first tree’s branches were loaded into a chipper, a police officer at the site said the tree removal crew had gotten a late start due to trouble with that machine.

The clear cutting did not go without incident, however. Around noon, a falling tree branch clipped off a Cobra-headed street lamp in front of the Gypsy Joynt.

The officer further stated that it may take two to three days to remove all the trees. The east side trees will be taken down first; they are a bit more complex, he added, since cables and wires run through some of branches. The west side trees are next: those trees are larger since they get more sunlight.

The work began in earnest between Bridge and Church Streets at 7 a.m. Monday morning, and a northbound backup on State Road and Route 7 was already aggravating the morning commute. On Tuesday the work on the sidewalk and parking areas moves to the west side of Main, between Castle and Elm Streets. According to the Southern Berkshire Chamber of Commerce’s (SBCC) construction update, there might be “traffic shifts” depending on the scope of the work. Indeed, during the morning “rush” hour – as much as there is a morning commute shortly after school begins, atraffic was backed up to Plaza Package on State Road.

Revenge of the Trees: A falling limb smote the Cobra-headed street lamp in front of the Gypsy Joynt. Photo: Rikke Borge

Revenge of the Trees: A falling limb smote the Cobra-headed street lamp in front of the Gypsy Joynt. Photo: Rikke Borge

On Wednesday, the sidewalk on the east side of Main is slated to be cut in half in preparation for sidewalk removal, starting on the east side of Main between Bridge and Church Streets. It will be done in stages, explained SBCC Executive Director Betsy Andrus. In the first phase, the sidewalk pavement nearest to storefronts will be removed; in the second phase, the sidewalk nearest the street will be replaced. But at all times, she added, there will still be access to businesses, and two-way traffic will be maintained constantly by police officers directing traffic.

The Main Street Construction Project is a $5.4 million state Department of Transportation (MassDOT) plan to improve the one-half mile stretch on Route 7 from St. James Place — also known as Taconic Avenue — north to Cottage Street. The project will replace roads and pavements, “improve sidewalks, drainage, curbs, traffic signals, crosswalks, and lighting,” according to the Town of Great Barrington. The reconstruction will also add better crosswalks, and bike lanes.

The project will proceed throughout this construction season, and into the following year. During the tourist season in July and August, work will be suspended in the downtown core, from Bridge to Elm streets.

All work begins at 7 a.m. and ends at 3:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. After 3:30 pm, all traffic flow is back to normal. For weekly updates, click on the green button on the right side of The Berkshire Edge homepage, just below the “search” window. The button connects to the Southern Berkshire Chamber of Commerce construction updates (scroll down to see the latest construction update). During the reconstruction, the Chamber will provide daily updates on the project, with schedules of where work will be proceeding.

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9 Comments   Add Comment

  1. Carl Stewart says:

    Although the buildings remain the same, the look of Main Street in Great Barrington has changed considerably in the 25 years I’ve lived and worked here. The many high-end shops are frequented almost exclusively by tourists. Rents are too high for a “normal” retailer to be able to afford. The gentrification of downtown was accelerated, as we knew it would be, when Smithsonian magazine anointed us as the chicest small town in America. I try to avoid looking backwards but I and a number of “locals” I know stay away from Main Street on weekends and between Memorial and Labor Days. Sic transit gloria.

    1. Daniel Alden says:

      Carl – I have to guess your data is anecdotal rather than factual since i have never heard of a business traffic survey.

      As a born & raised “local” who owns a highly visible business on Main Street, I resent & refute your characterization that our store(s) are not accessible to my fellow “locals”. We are “NORMAL” retailers. My wife and I opened our business with the express purpose of providing a valuable service & the finest possible product to ALL of our clients – local, regional and those who visit the area from around the world.

      While we can’t compete with outlets or big-box stores with regard to price, Our store offers a hand-picked assortment of products sourced from the finest manufacturers, and we strive to offer quality product at a wide range of prices. We offer a value-added level of personal attention & personal service that many of our clients, locals and tourists alike, find to be a life-changing experience. We receive countless referrals from our local clients to their local friends and family-members, and it is these referrals that keep our business thriving in all seasons.

      Your blanket statements, assumptions & perpetuation of the “us vs. them” attitude is not only an insult to we “locals” who depend on and are active participants in the economic vibrancy of Great Barrington, but also paints a bleak picture for those across the economic stratosphere who might otherwise seek out the quality of life and the unique offerings of our area as either locals, transplants or tourists.

      Dan Alden – co-owner, Great Barrington Bra & Girl

      1. Lola says:

        excuse me Dan, but aren’t you the same person who complained and started a petition about the parade in 2011? I can still remember at the selectman’s meeting you stating that “it is a pity and a shame that more local people don’t shop in Great Barrington” The reason is that a lot of the locals can’t afford anything on Main Street. The only place I shop on Main street is Carr Hardware. I don’t need an $80 bra or $150 pajamas from your store. I pay a lot of money in real estate taxes, sewer and water so I have to make my money go further and if that means shopping at Walmart, Kmart, Target, or the Home Depot, then so be it.

  2. Martin Albert says:

    Most of the businesses are owned and staffed by locals.

  3. Lee Rogers says:

    I know some of the local shop owners personally and these are people who are invested in our community, they live locally. Personally I would much rather shop locally and support our local businesses. I like going into a store and knowing the names of the people there. Sure we have some high end shops, but we are fortunate to have a good variety of shops and restaurants to choose from. And please there is really no reason to be ‘scared’ about coming to town, even during the construction. Betsy Andrus and the SB Chamber are doing a great job keeping people informed as the when and where the construction is occurring, and it is done most days by 3:30pm or so, and not happening at all on the weekends. Yes we get our fair share of tourists, especially in the summer, which is a mixed blessing. On the plus side of that is it helps our local economy, and keeps this area vibrant and somewhat more exciting than East Podunk. All I would ask of our visitors (and locals as well) is that they not double park on Main Street, and stop for people in the crosswalks!! The Berkshires – Being Nice Matters!

    1. Rebecca Gold says:

      Well put.

  4. Art Ames says:

    We’ve talked about the pear trees being removed for years now…even before the re-construction project. Nobody is happy about it…including those who realize that it had to be done. While I appreciate the article and continue to rely on the Berkshire Edge as a trusted new source, here’s hoping you don’t fall into the “headlines with an ulterior motive” trap that other newspapers use and gimmicky captions such as this one; ‘ Is this the barren street facade of a western mining town, or some Edward Hopper streetscape? A Boulevard of Broken Dreams? Why no, it’s the new look of Great Barrington’s Main Street. At 4 p.m., on March 23, 2015’.

  5. David Magadini says:

    First of all the trees that are being cut down are not pear trees but, instead, are flowering crabapple trees. The only pear tree was cut when work first began. The crabapples trees that are being cut now are a great loss to Great Barrington. Indeed these trees were cited as one of the reasons that Great Barrington was awarded Best tTown in America only a few years ago. These trees that have graced our Main Street, and have attracted small birds that frolic in their branches , and sing to the tourist as they pass by, or take photos of these trees. A tourist attraction being tuned into firewood. Who do do you think should get the firewood?

    Do not forget hat the plan also calls for narrowing our sidewalks and widening our Main Street. The plan will improve the flow of traffic trough the downtown of Great Barrington, and make it easier for tourist on their way elsewhere to buzz right trough town. The narrowing of the sidewalk will force people to walk closer to the doors of the stores in our downtown. The stores, shops, and restaurants will have more customers. This is the theory anyway! To be sure it will result in more togetherness on the Main Street of Great Barrington. Do not forget about all that money from construction work that will stimulate the economy while the work is in progress.

    We the people of Great Barrington could have done something about it but we did not. To be sure some concerned citizen worked with town management.. That resulted in where we are today. A special town meeting called by the valid signatures of 200 registered voters in Great Barrington could have cancelled the whole project. Of course the problem is finding 200 registered voters to sign anything. Everybody wants to complain afterwards; but where are citizens who understand that in a democracy, the government serves the people: the people do not serve the government. The Open Town Meeting, like we have in Great Barrington, is open to all citizens of Great Barrington, to participate in making the decisions that will shape the future of our town: Great Barrington.

  6. Babette Olsen says:

    So unlike most trees, pear trees cannot be dug up and moved somewhere else ? Too bad GB is going the way of so many small towns everywhere, what makes the charming is in the way of “progress” ..

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