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Should redwood trees be cut down for a community garden?

Advocates want to save Magnolia Park’s tallest dawn redwood, which reaches about 70 feet.Galina Bird

An expanded community garden may be coming to Arlington’s Magnolia Park. All that stands in the way is a pair of dawn redwood trees, which some local residents are fighting to save.

The designers say a 70-foot redwood needs to come down because it overshadows a garden described as too shady, wet, and small; the smaller redwood blocks a proposed pathway.

But a group called “Save Arlington Redwoods” argues there’s a better solution: Build a community garden somewhere else in town.

“This tree creates a beautiful vista at the east-northeast end of Magnolia field,” the group argues in an online petition that has attracted more than 500 supporters. “And while it does create shade over the end of the community garden areas, its beauty is enjoyed by hundreds of people each week.”

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The Conservation Commission has the final say on the plans because the park has wetlands. The commission is expected to make a decision when it meets Thursday, July 21, at 7:30 p.m. in the Town Hall Annex.

The community garden expansion is part of a larger renovation plan launched by the town’s Park and Recreation Commission that includes a new playground, basketball court, and a water and nature play area.

“Save Arlington Redwoods” formed after an orange spray-painted “x” appeared on the 70-foot tree. The group launched an online petition. The group states that other locations in Arlington, such as Menotomy Park, Parallel Park, or McLennen Park, are equally good options for a garden.

However, the parks and recreation department stated in argument to the Conservation Commission that all other locations for a garden have been considered, and Magnolia is the best option.

Jennifer Rothenberg, chair of the Parks and Recreation Commission, referred calls from the Globe to the Town Manager’s office.

“No one ever wants to take down a tree, especially not a director of parks and recreation,” said Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine. “The entire final package is a beautiful new park that the whole community can use.”

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The renovation design calls for the planting of various trees at Magnolia Park, including new dawn redwoods.

But that’s little comfort to David Loh of Save Arlington Redwoods. He said the tallest of the dawn redwoods is only a few inches away from becoming eligible for “Heritage Tree” status. He hopes the tree will someday become part of the Arlington skyline, as dawn redwoods can reach upwards of 100 feet in height.

Construction was supposed to begin in June at Magnolia Park, but was delayed so that officials could seek the necessary approval from the Conservation Commission. The commission has since approved everything in the redesign except for the community garden expansion.

Loh said he doesn’t believe the town has exhausted all of the alternatives to removing the dawn redwoods.

“There are mistakes made,” said Loh, “and now they are essentially trying to sacrifice a tree for it.”


Debora Almeida can be reached at debora.almeida@globe.com.