Tree Warden’s Report: Old And Dangerous Longshore Trees Must Go

Last month, First Selectman Jim Marpe directed tree warden Bruce Lindsay to report on the condition of the 15 trees slated for removal along the entryway to Longshore.

Today, the tree warden delivered his report.

Among the key findings:

The 11 Tulip Poplars and 4 Norway Maples are 50 to 80 years old. The trees have been cared for extensively over the years. The warden’s initial decision to post the trees for removal was based on observation and tree knowledge.

“The Tulip is not recommended for street use, and is extremely susceptible to drought and a variety of diseases,” Lindsay wrote. “It is best found in forests in a thicket of protected stands of diverse species….It does not respond well to salt and is known to deteriorate from drought and sunscald.”

The Tulips have reached the end of their life spans. They have reached their maximum heights and widths. They also show “the characteristics of drought, salt abuse, wind and storm damage, road side or urban abuses such as: soil and root compaction, salt and snow pileups, bark damage from being repeated nailed and stapled…these trees have become highly defective.”

Tulips at Longshore. The captions in the report describe (clockwise from upper left): compromised branch structure; extensive pruning due to breaks/decay; massive bark rot sloughing off in sections; weak canopy and leaf cover.

Tulips at Longshore. The captions in the report describe (clockwise from upper left): compromised branch structure; extensive pruning due to breaks/decay; massive bark rot sloughing off in sections; weak canopy and leaf cover.

Lindsay said that the Maples have several rotting sections. There are extensive hollow sections, indicating interior rot and water damage. They also exhibit a condition called “co-dominance,” creating a likelihood of breaking from wind shear.

The Maples have also reached their maturity. They too are at the end of their natural lifespan. They have a tendency to choke out all plant life and grass below them, and “create numerous problems along streets when dropping weak wood and debris.”

While the allee landscape design of the entrance to Longshore is “pleasant and gives a tremendous visual as the trees are generally uniform in specie and represent a serene view,” the fault of the allee principle is that the same species or similar trees were all planted at the same time.

“Had the species been diversified and newer trees been planted in the same line over a course of time, perhaps the hardship of this final removal” would not be so difficult, Lindsay wrote.

The warden praised the Parks and Recreation Department’s planning for the removal of the trees, begun 25 years ago. The new trees are growing in balance, and because they are further from the roadway, they enjoy enhanced root growth and reduced salt exposure from snow removal. They also are safer for walkers and joggers.

The more than 75 newer trees in the entrance represent “careful planning, culture and the next generation of roadway-framing trees to enhance the entry for several decades to come.” The mix of oaks, maples, zelkova, beech and sycamore will enhance the allee.

Photos of the Norway Maples in the report show (clockwise from upper left): rot and decay; open hollows; weak crotches, and one entire side of the tree dead.

Photos of the Norway Maples in the report show (clockwise from upper left): rot and decay; open hollows; weak crotches, and one entire side of the tree dead.

Lindsay said he posted the removal of the 15 trees at the end of December to allow for removal during the period of lowest use of Longshore. The tree removal service will use a crane, several trucks and numerous employees — work that is best performed when the ground is frozen or covered in snow.

In summary, Lindsay wrote, Parks and Rec has “made great efforts in recreating the allee along the roadway. The removal is not going to eliminate the tree lined effect…The grand trees at Longshore Club Park represent a period of iconic splendor and significance but they are failing and the new trees are in place to recoup the same effect for generations to come. The decision to remove these fifteen trees was not one made in haste.”

As tree warden — with “primary duty to see that all town owned roads and grounds allow safe passage” — Lindsay affirms that the trees in question are in “extremely poor health and decline, are of poor species” and are in danger of falling or losing limbs.

Because of their hazards, he said they must be removed.

To read the full report, click here.

Lindsay and Parks and Recreation Director Stuart McCarthy will hold a public information session at 9 a.m. this Saturday (January 11) at Longshore to explain the decision to remove the 15 trees. The public is invited to attend. The session will include walking a portion of the park. Dress accordingly. 

26 responses to “Tree Warden’s Report: Old And Dangerous Longshore Trees Must Go

  1. Stephanie Bass

    Here’s what I really think: are we as a community going to 2nd guess every decision every elected official/town employee makes for the forseeable future? When our tree guy makes a call, does every civilian in town get to vote on his decision? Didn’t he go to tree school and doesn’t he have many years of experience? Can’t we assume he has not made an arbitrary decision and has no vested interested in denuding the entrance to Long Shore?

    Or, Dan, is it only your following who really thinks everyone is out to “get us?”

  2. Tulip poplars have a life span interestingly enough of two to three hundred years. Individual trees up to 500 it is said. Years ago, I admired them at Monticello (well over 100-feet tall, they were hard to miss!) and learned that Jefferson had noted the planting of one near his bedroom in the early 1800s. Despite extensive conservation efforts over the years, and opposition too, it got the axe in 2008 and became a lot of nice bowls. As with our iconic Silver allée, there’s new meaning to be found in the expression “hew and cry.”

  3. Gary Abshire

    He’s paid to say “They [trees] must be removed”. Government employee! Like I’ve said, Once those trees are downed. THEY’RE DOWN! Respect those 200+ year old Majestics! If the government wins:::: Cremate Those Trees with Honor, and Genuflect to Them!!!!

  4. Gary Abshire

    Interesting : The title “Tree Warden”. So, who’s poaching trees to warrant that taxpayer burden for that position?

  5. Kudos to whoever did the original plantings. It’s difficult to chose trees that will remain healthy for 80 years. Let’s hope this new generation of plantings can be as impressive.

  6. here’s what (I) really think: i think we need some time…these trees should be allowed to bud out–in the Spring– why rush to tear them down…? Time. Time for the tree warden to see them in different seasons and through different conditions. Time for treating and puning. But mostly time or us to enjoy them a little longer–and to make SURE that this is the best and only decision… And finally, Time to say goodbye… I’m sure that there are lots of people who would appreciate this DECISION on public property being slowed so that they can walk through or make the beautiful drive to Longshore one last time …like– in the Spring???

    Gardening, in general, is about tending to–and time…

    ***Also, if they are absolutely not salvageable,– it seems to me that we need time to plant/design a proper allee to replace them, not a hodgepodge of new trees–a Grand Allee, as it was originally and (in my opinion) as it should be…this drive is—One of the few stands of trees in Westport that is so magnificent– it literally takes your breath away~ it is Awe inspiring!
    This second tier of trees is going to pale in comparison to the original Allee.
    You can’t achieve the same effect without rethinking what is there…they have to be same species, properly spaced.

    Note to Stewart McCarthy–“Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should..”

  7. Let them go. They were beautiful, now they’re becoming dangerous. It’s sad, but everything has a season.

  8. Gary, why are you turning this into an anti-governent rant? My guess is that if ilocal government had not made the decision to purchase the country club more than 50 years ago, there is a good chance that Longshore would have been sold a long time ago to a private developer and the beautiful open space we all get to enjoy today would have been divided into private lots (and those beautiful trees would have been taken down many years ago.).

  9. Sandy Soennichsen

    Betsy….give it a rest, the decision has been made….again. If you don’t like it. oh well! Guess you can’t have everything. Wait til Spring? Why not wait a couple more years, maybe they will all miraculously rebloom. No one said they have to be the same species, properly spaced, except you. Are you now an arborist? Why are there so many self-expressed experts on issues they do not agree with? The decision (the second time) has been made, lets just abide by it and move on, or out.

  10. robert fatherley

    Thank you, Dan, for your usual thorough research into the various aspects of our community.

    The explanation about the condition of the trees by our “new” tree warden made all the difference in my perception  of the situation.  As I always say….communication, communication.

    We seem to be in good hands and that is reassuring… There is so much beauty here in Westport that is being lost that  I am grateful to all those who take the time to “do it right”.

    Sincerely, Julie Fatherley

  11. Thanks for posting the Tree Warden’s report Dan – it’s quite an education, really. And thank you First Selectman Marpe and Tree Warden Lindsay for responding in this fashion. From the report it would certainly appear that the town has done everything it reasonably could to maintain the trees at issue – and the 25 year old replacement effort seems to have been done in a competent manner as well; a tip of the hat to Parks and Rec. It is certainly sobering, though, to read about the ill effects of road salt. Hopefully the new trees – which are further from the road – will do better. Something tells me they will.

  12. Eric William Buchroeder SHS '70

    God put ’em there and God should take ’em away. I bet they’ll outlast another 10 administrations.

  13. Bart Shuldman

    I like to get into the details and the internet makes that easy. From the below information it seems like our tulip poplars have many more years to go.

    Given the impact to the wonderful drive in Longshore, is the opinion by our tree lord gospel? Just had to ask as the result is a horrible change to the beauty we have and cannot be reversed. Please read:

    The tulip poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera), also known as yellow poplar, is a fast-growing tree that has a life expectancy of 300 years if growing in optimal conditions. In urban/suburban settings, most specimens will more likely live between 100 to 200 years. Tulip poplars are not poplars but members of the magnolia family. They are tall, fast-growing shade trees that easily grow to 70 to 90 feet and can grow to more than 100 feet. They are considered relatively hardy trees with few insect and disease problems. With proper planting and maintenance, you can help your tulip poplar live longer.

  14. They’re pretty but it seems it’s time for them to go. Unfortunately these aren’t “pristine” trees. It appears they’ve got salt damage, old cabling, probably vehicle damage and god know how many screws, nails and staples from old wedding decorations and who knows what else.

    I think if the town has identified them as a problem and now doesn’t do anything they’re looking at massive liability. If somebody gets hurt or killed by a falling branch driving into Longshore (especially by the one that appears to be cabled) it’s a legal nightmare.

  15. Mary Ruggiero

    We have been given a detailed explanation of which trees should be taken down and why. We pay folks with expertise to advise us. We are not all experts in everything – this was not a quick decision by amateurs. We love the way trees look in the spring, but the winter tells the tale – rotted trees, unbalanced rotted trunks are potentially lethal. And knowledge of that situation and not doing anything to prevent an accident would be legally untenable.

  16. Bart Shuldman

    Jack. You are right. We have been set up for the liability now.

    See ya trees. Maybe we can get some photographers there to take last pictures. It was a beautiful drive. Then Dan can post decades from now and compare how the new trees look to the old ones.

    Now into $2 million missing money in school budget, large increases being proposed for our school budget coming up (higher taxes) and continued very large under funded liabilities.

  17. Nancy Hunter Wilson

    An excellent report.

  18. Nancy Hunter Wilson

    This a note for Jan.11. How did this morning’s meeting go? Have people seen, heard and understood the problem and the fix?

    • About 40 people turned out in mist and fog. One woman asked why the tree removal can’t be done slowly (3 trees a year for 5 years). The answer is that the town would be liable for not removing dangerous trees.

  19. Bart Shuldman

    Nothing this tree warden did helped the residents of Westport. First, he reports to the First Selectman and given the enormity of the situation, should have informed him of his conclusion. Let’s all be honest, once he posted the notice, he left us in a sutuation of no return. The liability would be too much.

    If the tree warden had informed Jim MARPE then discussions about timing and intent could have occurred. If the tree warden cared about our town he should have shown the respect and not let this become a no win situation.

    These trees made it thru some of the worst storms in Westport history. Now we have a tree warden that makes a quick decision and leaves us without any recourse.

    Glad I am paying for this guy. Not.

    • So, if the tree warden thought the trees should come down, he should not have voiced his opinion. If the tree warden “cared” about Westport, he would have covered up the fact that he thought the trees should be removed. Hard to argue with that “logic”.

      • Bart Shuldman

        You said it right-his opinion. These trees have stood the time thru some bad storms lately. His ‘opinion’ now turns I to something WE must do as he put us in a liability situation based on his opinion.

        Are all the trees based in his opinion to the point they all have to come down. Could Jim MARPE have discussed a plan to take them down over time based on his opinion? Could anything have been done to the better trees to keep them?

        Nobody is asking to cover anything up? That is quite the stretch. But leaving us with no alternative does not seem right.

        • The town hired the tree warden to benefit from HIS opinion. The liability exists with or without his opinion. The extent of the liability may have changed, but the facts as they relate to the condition of the trees have not. Once the Warden reached a conclusion about the state of the trees, it should have become public knowledge. Once he reached a conclusion what would you have done differently? BTW what are your credentials ? What is the scientific basis for your opinions?

          • Bart Shuldman

            Peace my friend. The trees will now come down. No worries.

            What the eyes perceive in herbs or stones or trees is not yet a remedy; the eyes see only the dross.
            Paracelsus

  20. There are very few dark corners in the world – almost everything comes out when someone looks for it.

  21. Nancy Hunter Wilson

    “When it’s gone, it’s gone”. Wise words.
    Tending to these trees is long gone and so take note and learn to prune, Westport. Simple.