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Arlington group loses battle to save redwoods

A 70-foot dawn redwood will be removed to make way for a larger community garden at Arlington’s Magnolia Park.Galina Bird

Arlington’s Conservation Commission voted Thursday to allow the removal of two dawn redwood trees to make way for an expanded community garden at Magnolia Park.

The commission approved the Parks and Recreation Department’s plan by a vote of 4 to 2, despite opposition from a group called Save Arlington Redwoods whose online petition drew more than 500 supporters.

“I feel that injustice was done last night in the name of ‘conservation,’” said David Loh, of Save Arlington Redwoods, in an email. “Our organized effort was geared towards town officials. They have spoken — wrongly we think — but I, speaking only for myself, will respect the process even as I disagree with the result.”

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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.

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.

Interim recreation director Jim Feeney said there is a 10-day waiting period before construction following a conservation commission decision. He said officials hope to start the park renovations as soon as possible.

Feeney said the project should take approximately three months to complete.

The park renovations will include all the original design proponents, including a garden with 54 plots.

The commission recommended that no revisions to the design be made other than meeting the “tree replacement formula,” according to Feeney. A variety of new trees, including new dawn redwoods, will be planted in Magnolia Park.

“What should have been a value judgment was turned into a mathematical exercise — take one tree down, replace it with one or more trees,” said Loh. “In essence every tree is replaceable in Arlington. Of course, we know they are not.”

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