Longshore Tree Removal: Too Much? Too Soon?

Today — the 1st day of winter — the weather is hardly “frightful.” In fact, it’s fantastic.

Plenty of people flocked to Longshore on this beautiful solstice. As they jogged or biked, they noticed that 14 trees lining the entrance are tagged for removal.

According to a notice from the tree warden — dated December 19 — the trees will be taken down within 10 days, unless the public appeals to stop the process.

The notices give Westporters 10 days to contact the tree warden.

The notices give Westporters 10 days to contact the tree warden.

Westporters seem surprised.

They shouldn’t be.

On September 19, I posted a story about this. Called “New Life For Old Trees,” it read:

The trees lining the entrance to Longshore are handsome and stately.

They’re also old. And dangerous.

The Parks and Recreation Department, with the consent of the tree warden, has identified approximately 15 trees that are the last of the originals along the entry road. They’re identified by their poor shape, and the condition of their crowns.

These trees have reached — or will soon — the end of their useful lives. The crowns are sparse and misshaped, as a result of deterioration and falling dead wood over many years. Large branches have fallen — threatening golfers, drivers, bicyclists and joggers — and the trees themselves may topple in high winds.

Trees tagged for removal today.

Trees tagged for removal today.

Nearly 20 years ago, Parks and Rec realized what was coming “down the road.” They planted a new strand of trees, further back along both sides of the entrance. Now mature, they create a visual row of trunks and shade. When the 15 oldest trees — which also crowd and shade the new trees — are cut, the new ones will benefit.

Parks and Rec — and the Westport Tree Board – understand the love many Westporters have for trees. (Until they fall on your property.) Thanks to the new trees, there will be no real visual impact after removal.

And the department and board hope the old trees will have a 2nd life.

I asked “06880” readers to suggest new ideas for the old trees. Only 6 readers responded.

Whether it was the beginning of a new school year, the start of autumn or whatever, I don’t know. But the story did not stir the reaction I thought it would.

Now the removal of the trees is becoming reality. A number of readers have emailed me about it. RTM chair Eileen Flug received 2 calls in the past 15 minutes.

A summer view of the Longshore entrance road.

A summer view of the Longshore entrance road.

Earlier this morning, “06880” reader Marcia Falk wrote “06880”:

I have not seen any article about this decision posted by the town or in the local news.

These trees significantly enhance the beauty of Longshore Park. They are irreplaceable in the short term.  All of us know the havoc and damage which the severe storms have wrought upon our local environment, and it is possible that the decision to remove these trees is justified.  However, before such a dramatic and irretrievable act is completed,  the public should be given full disclosure as to reasons behind the warden’s decision.

Longshore Park is one of Westport’s most important,  beautiful, and adored environmental resources. Anything that is done on such a major scale should be publicly announced and explained.  Most local people are so busy that they have no time to visit the park and are unaware of the situation and the threat to the park.

The removal of these trees will drastically alter the landscape of Longshore Park.  Before these trees are removed I believe it is the responsibility of the town to explain why they ALL have to removed, and if so, what are the plans to replant for the future?

Larry Silver loves photographing the Longshore entry drive. This photo is from 1979.

Larry Silver loves photographing the Longshore entry drive. This photo is from 1979.

I sent Marcia a link to my September 19 story. She replied:

If all these trees are in the poor condition their removal makes sense.  However, I seriously doubt that ALL the trees have to come down at once and there is no immediate emergency.

Furthermore, it is not only unreasonable, but bordering on deceptive, that the tree warden announces his decision during the major holiday week.  Although the warden may be abiding by the law, he is not  fulfilling the purpose of the law enabling citizens the right to be informed within a timely manner.  By posting this at the height of the Christmas holiday,  it appears that the tree warden wishes to avoid input from the residents who love the park.  This is not the way a public employee who is hired to serve the needs of the town should treat our citizens.

We should insist that the removal of the tree posting be withdrawn and re-released on January 2nd for the benefit of community disclosure.

There it stands.

Whether the trees also remain standing — well, that remains to be seen.

39 responses to “Longshore Tree Removal: Too Much? Too Soon?

  1. Seems reasonable to have this take place (or not) well after the holidays so that people can respond. This is a pretty part of Westport and care should be taken to make sure that this is truly necessary. Hate to see all of Westport’s unique landscape changed.

  2. Maybe a removal notice should be put on the tree warden (half joking). That drive into Longshore is a bit iconic (IMO).

  3. Nancy Hunter Wilson

    Sorry, but what type of trees are these? I’m more used to cedars and firs that should never be crowned, as crowning weakens and rots a tree. It’s pretty easy to tell if a tree is dying. If they are, accept nature, plant new ones sooner rather than later (then again, Fall may be the best time?). Proper trees in proper places grow fast, so fast you’ll have forgotten that the old ones are gone (except for those gorgeous photos and memories!).

  4. It’s always a shame to see any beautiful, old and stately tree taken down. However, public safety is a consideration. I think that many people are a little more sensitive than usual to this issue because of Main Street tree removal debacle.

    My suggestion would be two-fold. How about a second opinion on the trees marked for removal — and then, an evaluation tree by tree, if trimming out and topping off might give some of them more years of stability.

    Sincerely, Jan Marcus (A Westport resident since 1963!)

    • Totally agree!!! It’s one of the prettiest places/entrances in Westport– we would not be able to replant and duplicate a grand, old entrance like Longshore– in our lifetime.
      I believe it’s our responsibility to take care of these trees (as well as our historic architecture) and at least–make SURE that they can’t be saved.
      Betsy p kahn

  5. Michael Calise

    Have Pete Hannan check them out

  6. Chip Stephens SHS 73

    I do not buy it, It seems the simple solution to remove these beautiful old trees all at once and move on STOP They have survived all the recent super storms, hurricanes, ice storms and you name it They still appeared quite alive this summer unlike the rest of Longshore’s flora and fauna, just ask any golfer.
    Proper maintenance and pruning of these trees would allow them to grace the entrance to one of Westport’s finest jewels. I suggest the town nuke the greens and fairways get the property in proper ways. Take care of the trees and when they die the newer trees may be of sufficient height and maturity to move on . But to carpet bomb the entrance monument trees all at once would be a terrible SHAME…. SPEAK UP PEOPLE!

    • Nancy Hunter Wilson

      Sounds like proper maintenance and pruning is years, years, years too late. Still, I’m quite amazed that Westport hasn’t a certified Arborist to help you. I’m still asking ANYONE what is the name of these particular, obviously, deciduous trees?! Do you know? I bet Dan would know.
      Maybe, in future, Westporters will pay closer attention.

  7. Nancy Hunter Wilson

    What is happening on Main Street now? Have new trees been planted?
    If so, what type of tree?
    p.s. as I said above, “topping off” is detrimental, doing more harm than good. Trimming, yearly, is the best route.

  8. Joyce Barnhart

    If someone wants the notices to go unnoticed, this is one of the best times of the year to post them. However, if the trees are in as bad shape as you describe, Dan, they should come down. If the timing is deliberate, maybe it’s an effort to avoid the kind of fuss that we often see in our town. I hate to see mature trees removed, but safety is paramount. Next time through Longshore, I will certainly look more closely at the “new” trees. It sounds like someone had a lot of foresight 20 years ago.

  9. We’ve had perfectly healthy-looking trees on our property fall in a bad storm. All it needs is for one limb to fall on a person and all hell will break loose! That’s why the Merritt has had so many trees removed. I love trees as much as anyone, but public safety is paramount.

    • So considering your short sighted reasoning, seemingly healthy trees can fall in a storm. Thererefore, shouldn’t all trees should be felled in the name of public safety? Why be selective in the wake of all of that potential for human peril? The problem with this vein of reasoning is that we (all creatures of the earth) lose. Trees reduce pollution and and cool the earth. They nourish our souls and provide shelter for wildlife. Reverence for nature and heritage is losing here, from Mahackeno, to Wakeman, builders clear cutting lots, erecting houses with huge carbon footprints that all look alike, the war on trees. It is just a matter of time before the powers that be attack Winslow, lots of defenseless old trees there with latent homicidal tendencies.

  10. Elise Gabriele

    I believe the trees are maples, right?
    I’d hate to see them all removed at once as well. I would be surprised if the town didn’t get a second opinion from the get-go, but if not, it would be good to have at least two.


    Those trees lining the entrance to Longshore are the most beautiful in Connecticut. Whenever I have visitors from out of the country, that is the first thing I show them in Fairfield County. The driveway is so beautiful, lined with those magnificent trees. If they are removed, there will be no need to take tourists and visitors there again.

  12. Stuart McCarthy, Parks and Rec director, says that the posting date for the notice is arrived at by working backwards from a plan to remove the trees in mid-January. Removal of the trees will require partial closure of the entrance road, so it is scheduled during the least active period for the various businesses in the park.

  13. Eric William Buchroeder SHS '70

    Its a Christmas miracle!!!!! Mr. T lives in Winnetka, not Westport. This highly sensitive mission critical cosmetic tree excision operation should be orchestrated by a plastic surgeon not a meat cutter (butcher) and that’s good because there are more of the former than the latter in Wetspot!!!!!

  14. Ps– these are the same Stately Old trees that ((made it)) thru both Irene and then Sandy…seriously– all the rain, snow, sleet, sand and WIND– and, they are still standing… There’s NO way—ALL need to go at once..
    No way; a limb or two–
    I’ve had to remove a large old tree, and it just killed me–but the tree had a hole in it… So we called TWO tree experts and THEN the tree warden.
    but–We have another old large tree that we baby-
    -they are worth protecting…

    Call–((CARE OF TREES))

    The pines died; I get that…. But …


    And, not for nothing— is this the OLD tree warden or the NEW……???

    Betsy p Kahn aka The LORAX

    Where’s Eileen Flug??? Help, Eileen!!!

  15. Sandy Soennichsen

    Geez, and I hate to say it, here we go again. If it isn’t some house to be saved, some barn and now its some trees! The decision was made a while back, why not abide by it, and the new trees have already been planted. This isn’t a news blitz, Dan’s post about the trees was quite a while back, and now all these people are coming out of the woods (no pun intended)? The safety issues have been cited, new plans already put into place, and now there should be a moratorium or a stoppage??? You want to get a second opinion which suggests you don’t trust the tree warden’s (the current one of the past one) decision; and after your second opinion some people might want to get another opinion, and then a branch falls on a car or pedestrian and no one has an opinion on how that could have happened. And it seems that a lot of people here proposing to keep the trees haven’t been to Longshore in a while, they don’t even know what the trees are that line the road, but now they care. Unbelievable.

  16. Peculiar these trees get tagged for removal when the least amount of attention can be paid : Winter and holidays. Less public awareness. Those for and against; please know, if you cut them down, you can’t put them back up. I say leave them up one more year. Make sure all are aware of the fate of these magnificent historical trees. In one more year, the appropriate level of public awareness may have been obtained. – Gary

  17. While I truly hate to see this beautiful viewshed disturbed, I believe Sandy is quite correct; the replacement plan has been in the works for a long time. That’s why those other new trees were first planted outboard of the originals. As an aside, Westport is lucky to have a new, fully certified tree warden. I met him last week and was really quite impressed with his professionalism. This is clearly not somebody that would take shortcuts or do anything in an improper manner.

  18. Nancy Hunter Wilson

    Sounds like people need proof. Your “Tree Warden” (Certified Arborist, I hope!) should lead a guided tour, pointing out holes and rot in the trunks of every single tree, top to bottom. Are they really maple trees? Even the Tree Warden seems unsure, calling them “shade trees” Maybe plant oaks in the Fall, a slow-growing tree that will really drive impatient Westporters mad.

  19. My understanding is that this program is necessary for public safety. However, Westport has a newly revitalized Tree Board chaired by Pam Klomberg (an active advocate) and an expert new Tree Warden, Bruce Lindsay. It would be useful for concerned residents to hear from them about these Longshore trees before their removal. Perhaps Parks and Rec will rearrange its schedule to allow this conversation to continue after the holidays.

  20. Our tax dollars at work. Really. All of a sudden these trees that made it thru how many storms will be removed and ruin what has to be one of the best drives down a driveway in Westport. Just wait until this warden comes to your house. OPEB is unfunded. Pension liabilities. Now $2 million missing from education budget and we need a tree warden who makes this decision. It just does not feel right.

  21. Nancy Hunter Wilson

    Please, Westporters, if you must complain about “Trees” then please let others know what type of tree you worry about. With that information, solutions may be had.

  22. What kind of trees? Betsy P. Kahn found a wedding site (weddingmapper.com) which says: “Drive through the maple-lined drive into 52 acres of Longshore Club Park where the drive whets the appetite for an evening of enchantment and sophistication like no other.”

  23. Nancy Hunter Wilson

    Finally, an answer. Thank you both, Dan and Betsy, for this information. If maples have survived there for so many years, plant more. If cypress, dogwood, birch, cherry survive, plant more. Choice is a luxury. Just use the old wood as best you can. Be patient.

  24. Eric William Buchroeder SHS '70

    I have an idea!!! change the name of Longshore Park Drive to “Maple Avenue.” Then they can’t cut down the maple trees or they’d violate the FTC’s truth in labeling laws. Treat trees like the downtown storekeepers treat snow on Main Street: God put it there and let God take it away.

  25. Dan, who has authority to make this kind of decision? On the surface seems like a really bad idea.
    In addition to their beauty and historic qualities, these trees help protect golf balls from hitting cars and pedestrians and from crossing the road and hitting other golfers. Some would even argue (not me obviously) that they have been very useful keeping poor drives inbounds!

  26. It is my understanding that the trees in question are Tulips and yes, the newly hired tree warden is (per recently enacted state law) a certified arborist.

  27. Did the salt water get to them during Sandy?

  28. High Wind, maybe ome salt spray–

  29. Christy Colasurdo

    The first time I visited Westport for a friend’s wedding many years ago, I drove down the tree-lined drive at longshore and thought, “I’d love to live in this town.” Fifteen years and two kids later, I still find the drive into Longshore a reminder of why I love living in this town.

    I was saddened when the town inexplicably took down the trees lining Main Street, but that travesty is nothing compared to the new plan to denude Lonshore of its proud and longstanding trees.

    We can’t go around taking out hundred-year- old trees because we are scared that a branch might fall; we would have to eliminate half the majestic old trees around town. A management program would be far more reasonable.

    We hired a Tree Warden to preserve the town’s trees; he should be making every effort to spare and preserve this historic old trees rather than deciding to take the easy route and cut them all down in one disastrous fell swoop.

    We need cool heads to prevail here. Let’s be calm and rational and do what we can to try to ensure that these grand old trees can continue to usher visitors into Longshore the way they have for so many years.

    • Dan, on the sign– it is posted ten days from Dec. 19– and says to write in–
      (To tree warden at town address)
      What ((can)) be one to review and hopefully slow this process…?
      I wholeheartedly agree with Christy! Well said!
      Does this blog in any way help?? Can you fwd to town….. This Date is gonna sneak up…. In fact, it is this Sunday…

  30. Surely these trees can be removed on an as need basis. Not all at once. They have made a mess of the Merritt Parkway.

  31. This is ridiculous. Posting on Dec 19th, which was the day before schools closed for holiday. I am sure a lot left town to do their skiing and sun and have no idea this is happening.

    For a ‘tree warden’ to decide something this important and destructive at a time where many Westporters are thinking of the holiday or away is shameful. Whose interest does this person have?

    These trees survived Sandy and many other wind storms. To destroy one of the most beautiful parts of Westport that the residents pay for and maintain is truly sad and wrong.

    What is the so called imminent danger? Will the trees hit a house? Power lines? Please explain why this has to be so rushed to post at a time where most are not paying attention (THANK YOU DAN).

    This is the time for Jim and Avi to get involved and stop this nonsense.

    By the way how much will it cost the residents to take these trees down and destroy such a wonderful drive?

    Truly a sad beginning for our ‘tree warden’.

  32. Just so everyone knows, our Tree Warden does not live in Westport so this decision he is putting on us residents will not effect him.

    Also I went and found an article about the hiring of the Tree Warden. where is the planning he is talking about? The trees on our town property should be a very serious decision which should not be done hastily. .

    Also, it is noted this position reports thru the First Selectman. So I suggest we send notes quickly to Jim MARPE and get this decision stopped and better dialogue started.

    And lastly was this decision brought to our new Tree Board? Almost comical.

    Sad that during the holiday period we have to worry about the beauty in our town. Shame on Mr Lindsay.

    Here are parts of the article:

    Lindsay, a resident of Orange, noted in seeking the Westport part-time position that “tree management and care on municipal land is a serious process, especially given the recent storms.”
    He said he intends to be extremely involved in preventative maintenance, tree risk and health evaluation as well as future planning.

    Joseloff said Lindsay will report to the First Selectman through the Director of Public Works and will work closely with the Tree Board, which is appointed by the First Selectman.

  33. Joyce Barnhart

    As a gardener myself, I sympathize with our new tree warden. It probably seemed straight-forward to him. Very likely the trees met the guidelines for removal and he proceeded. Poor guy, he hadn’t been warned about us Westporters! I understand he’s a certified arborist and I’d bet he loves trees and removes them only when there’s no other choice – at least I hope so. I think all of us who are skeptical and/or suspicious ought to take a ride down Longshore drive and look again at the trees, old and new, before continuing the argument.

  34. I sense this decision is hasty and being made out of unnecessary fear. Truly, these trees are iconic. They’re one of the hallmarks of the town, in my view. I appreciate the town’s foresight in planting a new row of trees but disagree with the belief, expressed above, that there won’t be a visual impact with their potential removal because of the new line of trees the town planted. It will be 30+ years before those trees are close to the size and beauty of the current trees that line the entrance and I’ll be an old man by then. I’m not an arborist and I’m all for investment in the future and in safety, but these trees did withstand the incredibly violent winds of Hurricane Sandy. If this is the case, it seems illogical to think they pose a problem to players during a sunny, tranquil day during golfing season. And if we have another super storm, no one will be on the course if one gives way, so where’s the real risk here? Doing a real risk assessment here: the greater risk is the premature death of these distinguished trees that add such character to Longshore and could continue to serve the town well for another 10 years or so while the secondary tree grow up more. They’re not yet ready to take on the job their forbears have been, and can continue to do, quite capably.