When a tree falls in Westport, who hears it?
Some of us lament the loss of every tree, whether felled by a developer, an arborist, wind or old age.
Others applaud the removal of dead, dangerous trees, or say it’s simply smart design to remove trees from near new, large homes.
Most of us, though, agree on one thing: Westport has “always” been a woodsy, New England town.
Most of us are wrong.
A look through photos in the University of Connecticut’s fascinating 1934 aerial survey shows that — well within the memory of some of our older citizens — much of this town was open fields or active farmland. South of the Post Road, in fact, there were virtually no woods.
Here is a shot from just 80 years ago. The railroad is the dark line near the top, running from west to east. South Compo is the white road, cutting southeast across the middle of the photo. Longshore is at the left; Sherwood Mill Pond is on the right in the middle, with Soundview Drive at the bottom right:
Contrast that view with today. We’ve got much more development — and many more trees:
Further north, here’s the Saugatuck River (center), with Main Street/Easton Road shown from south to north on the right. Those squiggles just west of Main Street are Willowbrook Cemetery:
Today, it looks like this:
Much has changed — including the addition of the Merritt Parkway, at top.
We can see more trees in the1934 scene below. It shows Long Lots Road, heading northeast near the bottom of the photo (that’s the Post Road at the far bottom). There are substantial woods between the main north/south roads (from left: North Avenue, Bayberry Lane, Sturges Highway), but also plenty of open fields and farmland:
So what does all this mean?
Westport looks different, at different times in our history. Farms didn’t just happen; our ancestors had to clear the land. Gradually, though, that open space was built over. Trees were planted. Now some of them are coming down.
So when we talk about “preserving Westport,” we aren’t always 100% accurate.
Perhaps we should say, “preserving the current look — which may look substantially different, not many years from now.”(Aerial video bonus: Check out this YouTube video of Compo Beach and Longshore, taken by a drone on November 9, 2013. If your browser does not take you directly there, click here.)