Mourning 2 Sycamores

Trees falling in forests may or may not make sounds.

Those chopped down on the Post Road definitely create noise.

Two alert “06880” readers emailed me about the 2 big sycamores felled this week at the site of the former Brook Cafe, across Cedar Road from Starbucks.

Brook 2

Jo Ann Davidson — who took these pictures — wrote:

Nobody was there to ask about it. Could they have been planted by the Beautification Committee years ago? Do we have a tree warden anymore?

The Post Road landscaping distinguishes our section from neighboring towns. Big trees cool all that pavement. I am sad to see 2 of them disappear.

I’m not sure if they were part of the 1970s-era Post Road beautification project — an effort that continues to bear fruit. We do have a tree warden, but he is very part-time. And he does not live in Westport.

Brook 1

Another alert reader wrote:

Who makes a decision like this? Who paid for the cutting? Weren’t the trees within 10 feet of the road? If so, didn’t it need to be approved by the town? Don’t the Green Task Force, Tree Board or Beautification Committee get involved with a decision like this? These were extremely healthy trees and balanced the corner nicely with those in front of Starbucks.  It is outrageous that the trees were taken down to leave yet another barren landscape.

When the town put sewers on that stretch of road, they removed 2 trees from in front of Sherwood Diner. The town never replaced them.

When I asked the diner owner about the tree removal, he lamented that his electric bills for AC had sky-rocketed during the summer months.  Yet there still are no trees in front of Sherwood.

It is such a simple thing to help make Westport a beautiful place.  It starts with not removing healthy trees and greenery.

Brook 3

73 responses to “Mourning 2 Sycamores

  1. Thank you for being so observant Ms. Davidson! Same deal on Main Street. Why? In New York City…you cut down a tree…without the proper authorizations in place and review and scrutiny…and public outcry! If you are lucky enough to be able to move the tree…it must be either relocated and maintained for a specified period of time and/or several new trees are planted and maintained in kind. Bloomberg and Bette Midler initiated a citywide program to plant a million trees in a decade. I believe we have a part time warden and it is apparent that the tree commission has no traction and gets no support by other town departments or commissions….because it may not be in their collective purview. I don’t know…call me crazy…but when is signage more important then trees that soften a store fronts sidewalk area and Main Streets one way direction further enhance that approach, especially during the holiday season when they were all bathed in lights. Oh well, most of the time a tree falls in Westport, and nobody hears it in Town Hall.

  2. Agreed, that’s why we need better representation at town hall! So long Gordo!

  3. I believe there are no ordinances protecting trees or giving the Tree Board or any other Commission any authority. Anyone can propose an ordinance and take it to the RTM. Gordon has no authority on his own to stop tree cutting. Please stop blaming him for everything.. He is not a dictator who has control over every aspect of Westport.

  4. Sycamores are incredible street trees. My grandmother’s house in Philly had giant ones lining her street. On my trip to Istanbul I saw them on both sides of a main road by the water. South Compo and the Post Road has probably the biggest I’ve ever seen. Winslow Park by Evergreen Ave has some great ones.

  5. After many comments about tree removal in beautiful Westport, one would think the town would respond. The trees at the Brook , the Diner, and downtown are sorely missed. They are what made our town beautiful. In addition, I don’t understand why every builder in this community finds it necessary to take down beautiful trees on properties with new homes.

    Suzanne Z

    • Because they get in the way of the size of the house. If you have a problem with that, don’t support those builders and don’t be friends with the people who support the right for property owners to do whatever they see fit.

    • Big box houses need treeless plots. That’s progress for you!

  6. To your point Maggie….The tree commission has no power or authority or review…so what is the point? If a tree is sick and dying or precariously hanging over a roadway or structure, I understand the need for removal, but who was responsible for cutting the trees down on Main Street…who reviews the removal of trees that comedown in the towns right of way? Seems like a waste of people’s time participating on a commission that has no power or authority to discuss with residents, developers, and the Town the fate of a particular healthy tree. Maybe more people need to refer to the great poem “Trees” by Joyce Kilmer.

  7. LLWestporter

    How would anyone expect trees to be protected when they are regularly cut down to provide easy access for builders? Trees are often cut down to accommodate bulldozers and increase square footage.. As long as greed and thoughtless razing of buildings and clear cutting reigns supreme, the scorch and burn disregard for a quick buck will continue to destroy the bucolic nature of Westport. Perhaps the trees could be reviewed in the same manor as historic homes are “reviewed” for demolition. Though this never works well for houses, perhaps an easy to follow parameter could be set up for trees; over fifty years old and healthy equals a protected tree ordinance. This would be an exemplary show of commitment toward a greener community.

    • Okay. Why don’t you lead the effort, then? And in 50 years you can tell your grandchildren that you were the one responsible for killing the new construction market in town, thus resulting in a weak fiscal environment for the town, over a few old trees.

      Sorry, but there are still plenty of trees in Westport and all of the new construction that happens in this town, which I admit is rampant, greatly contributes to the town’s economy. Through local business activity, to builders and landscapers, to the taxes.

      There’s always New Canaan and Weston if you’re missing the backwoods. Ok?

      • the weak fiscal environment present and future will not be due to increase of new construction or lack of construction . It will be due to poor fiscal management. If you haven’t noticed every tax dollar the town gets , they spend and MORE. (they increased the budget this year !!) With the extra tax dollars the town should be making up the deficit in the underfunded pension.

  8. Lots of observations and complaints. But what can we do to prevent
    More loss and replace what has been taken??

  9. The trees at the Diner had nothing to do with the Town or a sewer project. It was for a power transmission line and from what I understand, they were compensated very well from Northeast Utilities for the use of their land.

    • Whether the utility company or the town sewers !!! Youa re missing the point. No matter who took them down, or the reason why, the trees should be replaced. And if they interfere with the power lines, place them 15 feet back !!

      • Westport Delight

        Place the power lines 15 feet back or the trees?!

        • the trees of course. if it is possible. certainly some greenier/lower shrubery can be placed to soften the streescape…all of shich enhances the overall value

  10. Trees in the public right of way are our trees as are the ones on Main Street also.. if you want to take down trees on your property, that is your choice, however, killing perfectly good specimen trees that have been there for a few hundred years is a shame especially when garbage trees are replaced “landscaping” purposes.

  11. Sven Davidson

    This thread looks a lot like what’s going on in the US Congress: neither side appears willing to compromise even a little, and solid reasoning on both sides of the argument (esthetics & public land use vs. property owners’ rights) escalates to mean-spirited snipes.

    • Who said those trees belonged to the owner…?? If they do, all who object should boycott the owner as an objection. The trees in question sit within ten feet of the street line. Last I knew, the town has authority and should have something to say about whether or not they can be cut.

  12. That where somewhere in the middle and both sides need to compromise. Westport yes! Washington NO! …but I am not sniping!

  13. Anonymous, 1

    I’m not an expert in this field but referring to the little that I know about removing of sea grass and beach erosion and removing trees from wetlands, etc. it seems that removing any more trees from that area is a really bad idea. That 4 way stop area floods very deep every spring and roots of trees there could serve to absorb some of that water. It floods there so badly that when I asked local car dealer which SUVs could clear the puddle there, he admitted their SUVs could not.

  14. Aside from the trees being removed, now where will everyone park for Starbucks?? The new shiny aluminum fence blocks off all those parking spots!

  15. These Sycamore trees are located in a State right of way. They cannot be pruned, trimmed or removed without the permission of the commissioner. Please refer online to Sec.13a-140 CT General Statutes.
    I plan to call the local director of Dept. of Transportation’s Maintenance and Construction District 3 for copies of permits granted for removal of these trees. Under Sec.13a-140 “No such permits shall be issued by the commissioner unless the chief elected official of the municipality in which any tree with a diameter greater than eighteen inches is situated is notified in writing.” These Sycamore trees are approximately 25″-30″ in diameter.
    Westport GIS shows ownership of the commercial property to be SNC Property LLC. 905 Post Road East, Westport.

    • Hmm. Maybe the state lumberjacks currently clear-cutting the Merritt had lunch at the Subway and just followed the itch.

    • Permission or no permission, they are gone now. Hello Mr Joseloff !!

    • Judy, Did you ever find out about the trees? I am curious because where trees need cutting is right next to Mill Pond Reserve.. I called the town and asked for help to clear at least some of the fallen trees, as storm water is running bright orange, red and green.. They won’t lift a finger. Conservation even claims that the Wetlands are private property.. Grr

  16. I’ve always been a bit of a “tree nut,” and American Sycamores were one of the first species I learned and became familiar with as a young boy growing up in Westport. (I guess that’s what happens when you’re raised by a tree-loving father on a street called Hickory Drive.) They are unique and beautiful trees with some interesting historical context (George Washington wrote about them, and after a large Sycamore helped provide cover and security for a group of soldiers in the Civil War they became a symbol of “protection.” Sycamores are also known as buttonwoods, and the terms of the NY Stock exchange are called “Buttonwood Agreement” because they were signed under a Sycamore in the late 1700s).

    But sycamores naturally grow and are most adapted to moist areas along streambanks and along the edges of marshes. Because they grow relatively quickly and provide a lot of shade, they have long been common as ornamentals for landscaping and beautification projects. But sometimes they’re planted “out of place.”

    Because they evolved with and are most adapted to wet areas, they don’t thrive as well in more dry areas and can become a bit weakened and more susceptible to various diseases and fungus. In addition, the trees also tend to hollow out and rot as they get older, and the branches and wood can be more brittle and break easier than other trees that are stronger and more flexible. In other words: They break and fall easier during wind, snow and ice storms – good stuff, ecology, when providing homes and food sources for various wildlife when in its more natural environment, but not so good when close to power lines, houses and cars. That combined with their tendency to grow large and spread out wide, makes them a poor choice to have near power lines, roads and structures.

    For this reason, the removal of these older sycamores may have been justified. However, this is a case where it would be nice to have knowledgeable arborists or silviculturists either on the town payroll or under contract who could help inform the public of decisions and have a process in place to explain and justify such actions with public input and involvement. It also be nice to have requirement to replace removed trees with site-suitable species under the right circumstances.

    Various tree species have different traits, characteristics, suitable habitat types and life cycles and life spans; none of them live forever. But a sound management plan based on knowledge, education, public input and participation and justifications for actions seems like a good idea to me.

  17. that was long and winded and lawyer-like response in defense of the cutting…I suggest reading “uses” under wikipedia for the sycamore tree..”able to endure a big city environment and often planted as a shade tree.” The trunks of those trees wern’t hollow and they were VERY healthy.

  18. Thank you Mr Stalling for taking the time to post a rational and informative response! You provided some light!

    I once asked a friend why he didn’t cut down the trees between his house and the lake that was 200 feet away (better view, easier access) – he informed me that if everyone cut down the trees around the lake- sooner or later the lake would die from runoff and erosion.

    If you ask the right question you learn something!

    Dan’s post raised the following questions in my mind-
    1- Why did someone take down healthy trees?
    2- What are the rules?
    3- Were the trees taken down legally?
    4- Who is supposed to look after the rules and the trees?

    Does anyone have the answers- please provide light- not mud or heat!!

  19. Thank you Mr. Stalling and Nemo! You both ” hit the nail on the head”.

  20. Does Dan’s blog only spur discussion? Where’s the action?

    • …says the anonymous commenter posing rhetorical questions on Dan’s blog.

      If you feel there is some kind of serious injustice here, you should spearhead that action. Go for it.

      • No serous injustice, just idle chatter. Call this blog the “Cracker Barrel” of the Internet age. Some people may think that asking a question here is actually getting something done.

        • It is not idle chatter but the real problem is that there is no consensus on the solution. One wants to blame the government but they represent a divided electorate, here as well as Washington.

    • Where and WHEN will Mr. Joseloff respond to the Westport public about these trees and (equally important) the trees on Main Street?? Wilton, New Canaan and Greenwich all have very well documented policies (see their internet sites). We ask you to respond to the public’s concern this week with specific answers as to the trail of decision-making that did or did not take place here. It has been over a month that the trees were cut and there are no answers. If a tree falls….does anyone at town hall here it?

  21. Anonymous: It was not my intent to defend the cutting of the tree. Sycamores can indeed survive in cities, and they provide excellent shade. But they are most naturally adapted and suited to wet, marshy areas and along streams and they are out of place in drier areas, and weakens them enough that they are more suceptable to fungus, disease and rot. I am not familiar with the individual tree or trees that are being discussed here. That Is why I suggested having a good, informative public process.

    I am not a lawyer. I am actually a professional tree-hugger and wildlife professional living in Montana who admires and loves trees.

    But thanks for the nice, kind feedback. And Happy Easter.

  22. I am not a lawyer or a tree hugger (although I can appreciate a nice tree when I see one).
    It seems to me to get something done we need more information!!

    AND some one person out there in the real noncyber world- a volunteer, a paid tree warden, a tree hugger or a student looking for a service project- has to take time to get involved and get the answers to the four questions (appropriate for this time of year!!)

    1- Why did someone take down healthy trees?
    2- What are the rules?
    3- Were the trees taken down legally?
    4- Who is supposed to look after the rules and the trees?

    Then, if appropriate- we can all storm the builder’s office, the tree warden’s office or Town Hall in protest to get something done.

  23. Frank Boten: No offense taken. I wouldn’t think of or even want to offer objective, unbiased view of the issue. I was simply stating some facts about American Sycamore trees and my very objective, biased view that the town should hire or contract with a professional arborist or silviculuralist and have a public policy and process in place for removal of trees that includes public participation to justify actions and keep the public informed — whether they decide to cut them down or not.

    If such a policy were in place, we wouldn’t be here wondering and pondering why the town (or state) chose to cut these Sycamores down; all of Nemo’s questions, and more, would be known. Maybe they had good reason; maybe they had no good reason. It would be nice to know.

    My very objective, bias view is based on my knowledge of trees and my extevsive experiece protecting fish and wildlife habitat while working cooperatively with landowners, the public and state and federal agencies.
    I’m niether defending nor condeming the actions taken here, and so my subjectivity and bias is slanted heavily towards a “middle,” balanced, common-sense approach.

    No disrespect: But your seeming insinuation that a professional with some knowledge and experience shouldn’t offer a suggestion for a reasonable, balanced, publically-accountable approach to tree removal completely eliminates any potential for an objective, unbiased comment on the objectiveness and biasness of we professional “tree huggers.” 🙂

    I’m assuming (perhaps wrongly) that you’re makiing wrong assumptions about us tree-huggers (I tried to hug a big ash today, but it was a bit stand-offish).

    • According to Mr. Boten, having an opinion disqualifies you from … having an opinion. What utter silliness.

      • Frank Boten

        David and “Anon 32” (Really?), I did not communicate my thoughts clear enough.

        My comment was directed toward the anonymous poster who labeled David’s biased lecture as an “informative, nonjudgmental post.” The use of ‘nonjudgemental’ suggests that it’s not bias or, at the very least, not pushing against the opposing viewpoint.

        I strongly disagree with that and believe a self-admitted “tree hugger” cannot be neutral on such a topic. David, correct me if I am wrong but if it were up to you, property owners would have to go through a long and expensive process just to remove a couple of inconsequential trees from THEIR private property.

        I know Dan’s post is about the trees on what I will assume is public property (even though I haven’t seen the proof), but it’s a slippery slope and may infringe on the rights of private property owners. Just saying.

  24. WTF?

  25. U. Zooelly N. Trouble

    That’s because he’s Boten paid for!!!! Hahahahahahaha!!!!!

    • Frank Boten

      Did I see you headlining the crotchety comic night at the VFW on Riverside last week? How long are you appearing?

  26. The 2 sycamore trees were part of the town Beautification Committee’s Greening of the Post Road. They are also called London Plane Trees. One can see many, many of them as one gets off the RFK bridge onto the East
    Side Drive on the right side of the Highway. The trees on Main Street were part of the Committee’s Greening of Main Street project. Both of these projects were paid for mostly with donated funds. We used the Woman’s Club to act as treasurer for the Post Road project and the Westport Garden Club as treasurer for the Main Street project. Hope this sheds some light on
    the subject.

  27. Claire Ford

    Sorry the prior comment did not come up with my name. It’s Claire Ford. I was a member of the Beautification Committee then and now.

  28. David Stalling

    Frank Boten: My apologies; I think I did misunderstand your post.

    But you are wrong: I would not support any laws, rules or regulations that would dictate what private landowners can and can’t do with their trees on their property. I spent much of my youth in Westport working for an aborist and tree-service (AAA Tree Service run by Irv Daskum) during which time I advised, treated, pruned, limbed and removed plenty of trees. I also worked a short time as a logger when I first moved to Montana years ago. The knowledge and experience I gained as a young man working on trees in Fairfield County is what led me to attend forestry school.

    The suggested plan I outlined above would apply only to trees on community and public lands.

    I do think my posts have all been very nonjudgmental, which to me implies I am not judging anyone, from either side of this, but suggesting a reasonable, balanced approach that would be based on sound science, advise from knowledeable experts, and public participation.

    While I agree that judgement can infer bias, I think judgement can also entail aknowledging a bias while considering other’s views before coming to a conclusion.

    My bias here is for a responsible, accountable middle-ground approach when it comes to making decisions on public and community property.

    I am a “professional tree-hugger” in the sense I do love trees, am knowledgable about trees, and I work to protect fish, wildlife and the habitat that sustains them. I also hunt, fish, cut trees and burn wood. I strive for sustainable living.

    I suspect a “Tree-Hugger” by Montana standards may differ from an East Coast view of the term.