CHELMSFORD -- The town's public-works department has until Tuesday to file a restoration plan for the Parker Middle School after a tree-clearing project this summer went far beyond what some town officials say they envisioned.

A contractor was hired to clear trees that had grown too close to the school, but workers ended up clearing trees as much as a few hundred feet from the building. With the trees and other vegetation gone, officials are concerned about erosion and sediment flowing into a brook that passes through.

"It's unfortunate. It did go way too far," said Christopher Garrahan, the Conservation Commission chairman. "Right now," he added, "our focus is really on getting things restored and to make sure the site isn't going to have any further erosion."

The Conservation Commission has ordered the DPW to file a restoration plan detailing how it will improve the condition of the site before winter. A notice of intent, with greater details on short-, medium- and long-term plans for the area, is due by Jan. 8. The notice of intent will include proposed plantings and a "permanent sediment-management maintenance plan," according to the commission's order.

The School Committee, Department of Public Works, Conservation Commission, the middle school community and abutters are to be involved with the full site plan.

The DPW hired Henniker, N.H.-based Hopkinton Forestry & Land Clearing to perform the work but did not get Conservation Commission approval, which is required for any project that takes place within 100 feet of wetlands.


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Gary Persichetti, a longtime member of the department who was promoted to public-works director in June, told the commission in September that he took responsibility for bypassing the commission, saying he was concerned about safety issues with trees hanging over the school's roof and portable classrooms building.

Persichetti was reached Tuesday but was in a meeting and unavailable to comment.

Town Manager Paul Cohen said that although "the procedure was faulty," the tree-clearing work had to be done. The error with what was done at the site was that no one from the town was at the school to monitor the work, he said.

Trees were cleared near the building, but also hundreds of feet away along a parking lot on the northeast side of the building, and up on a hill to the northwest side of the school. Some fencing and other erosion controls have been put in, especially along the stream that flows through the site, including under part of the school in a culvert. The stumps of many larger trees remain.

Phil Stanway of the Chelmsford Open Space Stewardship called the incident "a very unfortunate miscommunication."

"I don't think there was any malice in it," Stanway said. "I think it was just a miscommunication between departments in town."

The wooded area around the school had "decades of overgrowth," Cohen said, and had begun damaging the school roof and some concrete surrounding the school. Hopkinton Forestry & Land Clearing took over the project after another unidentified company that started the job apparently was foreclosed upon and had its equipment seized. Hopkinton performed the work closer to the wetlands, he said.

Hopkinton owner David Herrick said the company is not to blame for the work. "As far as I'm concerned," Herrick said, "all we did was clean up this other company's mess."

The town has hired an outside wetlands consultant to help come up with a restoration plan, which will also include an estimate of what it will cost the town, Cohen said. "I think the end result will be what it should have been and could have been," he said.

Superintendent of Schools Frank Tiano did not respond to a request for comment on the school's involvement.

Follow Grant Welker at Twitter.com/SunGrantWelker.