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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