Savin Hill tennis court set to get its tree back

Savin Hill Tennis Court: The green at left along the fence is where the old oak tree once stood. Image courtesy Heidi MoesingerSavin Hill Tennis Court: The green at left along the fence is where the old oak tree once stood. Image courtesy Heidi Moesinger

It could be a case study in new-age civic activism. Or perhaps the perfect sub-plot for a "Parks and Rec" episode.

A few years ago, city workers yanked a dying oak tree from inside the perimeter of the tennis court in Savin Hill. A neighbor, Heidi Moesinger, wanted the tree— which she says offered welcome shade for tennis players without interfering in play—replaced. So she began the online application process to start the ball rolling. Others have since joined her cause.

That was a few years ago— and there has been no replacement tree planted. Earlier this year, with plans afoot to re-surface the courts, Moesinger stepped up her call for a new tree, asking Parks and Recreation officials to review the matter. She heard back from one city official— Gregory Mosman, an arborist and tree warden— who told her that the tennis court was built around the tree, but that— essentially— it wouldn’t make sense to put a replacement tree within the existing court.

Moesinger and her allies balked: “Since the tree was there before the tennis courts, doesn’t it make sense that the tree have precedence?” she wrote in an April appeal letter.

Since then, Moesinger has rallied public support for the new tree using social media, including a Facebook page popular with Savin Hill residents. She started an online petition for the new tree that has garnered over 100 signatures.

On July 1, a group called Historic Savin Hill Advisors, Inc. sent Parks and Recreation Commissioner Antonia Pollak a letter urging her to sign off on their request—even offering to have the neighbors pay for the new tree. Maureen Marotta, a neighbor who signed the letter, advised Pollak that “I play in that court and also live across from the park where a new tree was planted some years ago and I can assure you, having observed that tree grow, that it would not interfere in the least.”

When the Reporter — which was copied on the letter—checked with City Hall, a senior Parks official told us that the matter remained under review: “We’re going to have our arborist look at the park property to see if a replacement tree would be viable in that environment,” said Jacquelyn Goddard, a spokesperson for the commissioner. “And we will also have some discussion with our permitting director and maintenance to determine whether the use of the property now will be conducive to the health of a new tree.”

Goddard was hardly surprised by the passion that the Savin Hill tree issue has triggered. “We often get 30 people in a room for a tree removal hearing,” said Goddard. “The loss of one tree is a very big issue in every neighborhood of Boston.”

On July 3, Commissioner Pollak sent the Savin Hill Advisors a short, but happy note: “Thank you for your generous offer to plant a new tree. The site has been inspected by our arborist and we intend to plant a new tree to replace the old one in the fall planting season. We do not plant trees in the heat of the summer months. Happy July 4th.”

Game, set, match.