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Chainsaw-Wielding Man Arrested for Stealing Tree Burls in The Fenway

Police have been looking for the alleged "Boston burl bandits" for the last six months, but so far he has not been linked to a similar incident in Watertown.

Boston Police arrested a Dorchester man this week who is suspected as one of the city's "tree burl bandits."

Police said that witnesses saw Michael Scanlan of 25 Alban Street, Dorchester using a chainsaw to saw off a tree burl in the Fenway Victory Gardens on Wednesday. Thus far, he has not been linked to a similar incident in Watertown's Arsenal Park.

A burl is a growth on a tree trunk; because of their rarity and unique grain pattern, burls are highly desired for woodworking and sculpture. 

According to the police report, a witness observed Scanlan fleeing the Victory Gardens with a chainsaw, heading towards 15 Park Drive. Police confronted Scanlan, who told police that he had been cutting up wood that a friend had dropped off to him. When the police asked who his friend was, the Scanlan allegedly stated he "could not remember his name."

Scanlan was arrested and charged with willful and malicious destruction of property. 

An ongoing problem

Parks Department Arborist Greg Mosman said the damage was first noticed in Boston parks about six months ago and has increased lately, with a dozen locations hit in the Emerald Necklace, mostly in Franklin Park, and a more recent attack on a tree reported at Evans Way Park in the Fenway on October 2.

Mosman said vandals use chainsaws to remove the burls, inflicting scars and injuries that adversely affect the overall health of the tree and can eventually lead to its death. No particular species seems targeted with the victims so far including oaks, hemlocks, and lindens. Additional cases have been reported in the neighboring communities of Brookline and Watertown with vandals sometimes using ropes to get up into the trees.

“This vandalism is an attack on us all,” said Boston Parks Commissioner Antonia Pollak in a statement. “These trees are public property in parks owned by the City and funded by Boston’s taxpayers. These selfish attacks trying to capture the beauty of the wood could kill the very trees that created it.”

The Parks Department is asking for the public to reporting any unusual activities, especially anyone climbing trees or using chainsaws in City parks, to the Boston Police at 9-1-1. Anyone with information can also call the PARKline at(617) 635-7275 or the Mayor’s Hotline at (617) 635-4500.

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