Five years ago, Monica Buesser’s husband got a job in Norwalk.
They bought a home in Westport for the usual reasons: lower taxes than surrounding towns, excellent services, beaches, marinas and summer entertainment.
During their 20 years in New Jersey, Monica — who is a master gardener, and earned a master’s degree in biology — had served on the Ridgewood Tree Commission. She wondered if there was something similar here.
Her first week in town, she heard about a tree giveaway at the Lillian Wadsworth Arboretum, near her new home. She walked over, met members of the Westport Tree Board, and — without knowing quite what it did — offered to help.
Chair Dick Fincher and tree warden Bruce Lindsay were happy to have her. Monica interviewed with then-2nd Selectwoman Jen Tooker, and joined the group.
When Fincher resigned as chair in 2021, Monica took over. She continued the work he had begun, earning certification as a “Tree City USA” from the Arbor Day Foundation.
Twice a year the Tree Board hands out trees, at places like Town Hall and Jesup Green. They’ve organized “Oaktober” celebrations, and worked with the Wadsworth Arboretum to upgrade its visibility and educational offerings.
Monica has not accomplished all that she wanted. A tree planting program similar to one in Ridgewood is still not off the ground.
The Tree Board’s role, Monica says, is to “support the tree warden, and educate the public about trees and the community.”
But working with the town’s bureaucracy can be frustrating. Pages of informational content created by Tree Board member Jim Corley is not yet available on the town website.
A link to report problem trees using photos and GPS coordinates — similar to a link on Fairfield’s website — is also not yet live.
Part of the problem, Monica says, is that Westport’s tree warden is not a full-time employee. In addition, he only handles “street trees” — not those at schools and parks, or on private roads.
Buesser and her husband are moving soon, to be closer to 2 children in Washington, DC. (A third is in Utah.)
Her departure — coupled with the Tree Board resignations of Jim Corley and Alice Ely — means there will be 3 vacancies.
She is excited by the passion and knowledge of members like Dick Stein (“he knows every house, every person and every tree,” she says), and Frank Rosen (the News12 videographer helped produce a feature on oak trees; a new one, on sycamores, is in the works).
The Tree Board is important, she says. As Eversource pursues a controversial vegetation management plan — which included cutting trees 100 feet away from utility lines in Redding — the town will need to be vigilant, she warns.
Anyone interested in learning more about the Tree Board — including how to serve — should email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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As you bring up the topic of trees in Westport and the Tree Warden, I’d like to know who is in charge of the mass cutting of healthy trees at Longshore park. As Longshore is town property I would assume this is the Tree Warden.
There is a tree by the water next to the playground by the Longshore sailing school which used to have a beautiful horizontal branch over the sand which my grandkids would play on. Perfectly healthy and lopped off for no reason. Numerous large mature oaks – not invasives – with no sign of disease on the trunks, and not overhanging the road – cut down for no apparent reason. A big old oak is marked to be cut down on the entrance road, but has no sign of disease on the trunk. It’s old and some upper branches had to be cut off, but the main tree is fine. Who is deciding to cut down this 150 year old gnarled but healthy specimen? I’ve got a collection of pictures of the trees cut down in the last couple months, and virtually all of them show no disease and perfect health of the trunk/roots.
I don’t think it’s the tree warden, Clarence. As noted in the story, he is in charge only of “street trees” — NOT those in parks or at schools.
I would like to nominate Ramin Ganeshram of The Westport Museum of History and Culture to serve on the Tree Board. The Tree Board is a critically important function to improving and fine tuning Westport’s ever changing history and culture. Today’s seedlings are tomorrow’s garden mulch. Since Ms. Ganeshram has become involved with The Museum she has almost singlehandedly reshaped Westport’s history and culture which prior to her arrival was in such disrepair and neglect. Think of what it could mean to Westport if she were to devote a portion of her time to service on the Tree Board!!! Thanks Dan for bringing this opportunity to our attention.
Dear Eric, your personal vendetta is getting beyond tedious. I beg you, please stop.
You are not being forced to read anything. If it bothers you, ignore it.
Kudos Laurie. He’s become the ultimate SHS bore.
“the ultimate SHS bore.” Considering the competition, that’s high praise, you’ve made my day!!! Believe me, it’s been a long, hard climb and peer recognition means everything.
Well, since you asked me nicely and I am a Staples grad.