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Wellesley park trees felled in error

Abutter’s hired crew ‘just cut too many’

By Caitlin Castello
Globe Correspondent / February 18, 2010

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WELLESLEY - Town officials are investigating the unauthorized clearing of a swath of mature trees in Boulder Brook Reservation behind the Weston property of Steve Belkin, an owner of the Atlanta Hawks.

Belkin’s property manager, Bob Campana, said he hired a crew to remove the trees last month after a wind storm toppled some of them across a walking trail. He said the fallen trees had posed a safety hazard, but the workers cut far more than he wanted.

Campana said he counted approximately 25 trees that were felled. But Neal Seaborn, chairman of the Wellesley Natural Resources Commission, said town officials counted more than 90 trees damaged, over almost an acre of land. The felled trees remain at the reservation.

“It’s the most serious problem we have had with our trees since I’ve been on the commission,’’ Seaborn said.

The trees that were cut down represented a variety of species, Seaborn said. Many were 60 to 70 feet tall and nearly a century old.

Campana said he was unaware that the trees were on Wellesley town property.

“They just cut too many; I don’t believe they did it maliciously,’’ said Campana, a retired Wayland firefighter who owns R.L. Campana, a home repair and locksmith company. “I was trying to protect the public.’’ He said he is willing to make amends for the mistake.

The Belkins were not home when the trees were cut, he said.

“They had no knowledge of any of this,’’ Campana said. “It has nothing to do with them at all. It’s all me, unfortunately.’’

Belkin did not return a call seeking his comment last night. In addition to an ownership stake in the Atlanta Hawks, according to the Hawks website, he is also the founder and chairman of Trans National Group, a marketing and investment company headquartered in Boston.

The town Natural Resources Commission can levy fines for illegal tree cutting, which is a common, problem, often accidental. Boulder Brook is a town reservation with a trail through woods, a meadow, and rocky ledges that comes close to the Weston town line.

“We really have to dig in and see what happened,’’ Seaborn said. “We want to make sure that’s fair to everyone involved. We have a very well proven process . . . that works well.’’

While the commission conducts its investigation, Campana emphasized that he feels terrible that the trees were cut.

“I am ready to do whatever it takes to rectify the situation, replant trees and do anything they want me to do,’’ Campana said, adding, “It’s just made me sick, the whole situation.’’