Laws and Policy Governing Trees
Public Shade Trees
Public Shade trees are defined by Massachusetts General Law, Chapter 87, , § Section 1)
All trees within a public way or on the boundaries thereof including trees planted in accordance with the provisions of section 7 shall be public shade trees; and when it appears in any proceeding in which the ownership of or rights in a tree are material to the issue, that, from length of time or otherwise, the boundaries of the highway cannot be made certain by records or monuments, and that for that reason it is doubtful whether the tree is within the highway, it shall be taken to be within the highway and to be public property until the contrary is shown. (Mass. Gen. Laws Chapter 87, § Section 1)
It is important to note that there are laws in place to protect public shade trees at both the state and local levels in Massachusetts. These laws are described in Massachusetts General Law, Chapter 87 Sections 2-14, with Sections 3-5 specifically outlining the rules for cutting down and trimming public shade trees.
Departments Responsible for Public Tree Care
The Tree Warden’s duties and authority shall include, but shall not be limited to, those specified in Massachusetts General Laws (MGL) Chapter 87, Section 2. The Tree Warden plays a crucial role in ensuring the health and safety of the trees that line the town's streets. They are responsible for a variety of tasks related to the care and maintenance of shade and ornamental trees within the town's right-of-way. This includes regular inspection and pruning to ensure proper growth and prevent damage to nearby structures.
In addition to routine maintenance, the Tree Warden is also responsible for identifying and removing any dead or hazardous trees that pose a threat to public safety. This involves assessing the condition of trees and determining if they need to be removed or trimmed.
During severe weather events, such as storms or heavy winds, the Tree Warden is also responsible for emergency removal of damaged trees that pose an immediate threat to public safety. This is a critical role, as fallen trees can cause significant damage to homes, vehicles, and other structures, as well as pose a risk to pedestrians and motorists.
The Cemetery Commission is responsible for all trees located in cemeteries.
Parks and Recreation
The Parks and Recreation Department is responsible for all public trees outside of the town's right-of-way.
Private Tree Removal
If you are looking to remove or modify trees on private property, it is important to be aware of the local bylaws that govern these actions. These bylaws are typically centered around rules and regulations for wetlands protection. You can find a list of these bylaws that apply to trees on private property in Dover.
- Dover Town Code Chapter 263 - Rules and Regulations for the Dover Wetlands Protection Bylaw
- Dover Town Code Chapter 181 - Dover Wetlands Protection
- Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection Wetlands Permits
- Is there anything I need to do before I cut down trees on my property?
The Town does not have jurisdiction over trees on private property unless they are within a municipal right of way, public easement, or the buffer zone of wetlands or a perennial stream. Before removing trees residents are encouraged to first determine whether the tree(s) you wish to remove fall within one of the above-mentioned areas on your property or outside your properties boundaries. For the latter a survey of your property lines is encouraged. For additional guidance please reach out to one of the following town agencies:
A plan to remove trees along a scenic road may require a Scenic Road Hearing before the Planning Board. Click here for a list of scenic roads in Dover: https://ecode360.com/10428309.
- Will removing the trees help control bugs, ticks, and other critters?
Ticks prefer long grass in shady areas; however, they can also live on tree branches and shrubs. The following link provides tick prevention strategies https://www.mass.gov/info-details/tick-borne-disease-prevention.
For additional information please consult the Dover Board of Health.
- How do I know if I have wetlands on my property?
To learn more about wetland locations related to your property please contact the Conservation Commission for further guidance.
- I think my tree has a disease. Who should I call?
Residents may wish to contact a certified arborist for assistance in the care and maintenance of private trees located on their property. Lists of arborists certified by either the Massachusetts Arborists Association (MCA) or the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) can be located via the following links:
- Can I plant trees on my septic field or next to my wellhead?
For questions related to planting near or on septic fields or wells please consult the Dover Board of Health.
As an additional resource regarding planting on septic fields please review the following link from the EPA: https://www.epa.gov/sites/default/files/2015-06/documents/septicsmart-week-landscaping-final.pdf
For a quick reference related to planting near wellheads please see the following: https://www.grecoandhaines.com/landscaping-wellhead/#:~:text=DO%20NOT%20plant%20anything%20within,choosing%20plants%20with%20short%20roots.
- Is there a resource that can help me identify the types of trees I currently have on my property?
There are a few Apps available to assist in identifying trees, such as LeafSnap, PictureThis – Plant Identifier, and Forest Tree Identification to name a few. Some apps may require a subscription fee. Other resources such as The Arbor Day Foundation’s tree database and Eversource’s “Planting a Tree Guide,” are also helpful tools.
- Can trees protect my yard from flooding?
Trees are an important component of stormwater management. To see how trees assist with stormwater runoff see the following article from the Arbor Day Foundation.