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

Tree Warden

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. 

Cemetery Commission 

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. 

Planning Board

Locally, the Scenic Road Act provides some protections for public shade trees. View the Scenic Road Act to understand the restrictions for removing trees on roads designated as scenic in Dover. 

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.

  1. Dover Town Code Chapter 263 - Rules and Regulations for the Dover Wetlands Protection Bylaw
  2. Dover Town Code Chapter 181 - Dover Wetlands Protection
  3. Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection Wetlands Permits