Westport will look very different — very soon.
Work is imminent on a state Department of Transportation Post Road improvement project.
It includes road widening, the addition of turn lanes and sidewalks — and the removal of up to 100 trees.
From Volvo of Westport to Cumberland Farms — and continuing east to the trees in the median toward New Country Toyota — workers will cut decades-old trees.
The 2 in front of Sakura — the Japanese restaurant whose name means, literally, “cherry blossom” — are also on the chopping block.
But a meeting yesterday may have brought those 2 beautiful trees, at least, a reprieve.
State DOT officials planned to meet yesterday in the Sakura parking lot with workers, to coordinate the upcoming project.
Also there: Westport Town Representative Meeting members Andrew Colabella, Matthew Mandell, Harris Falk, Lou Mall and Don O’Day; Tree Boad members Ed Picard and Dick Stein; Betsy Newman of Earthplace; Sakura owner Nicole Chen, and landowner John Klinga.
And Westport Public Works director Peter Ratkiewich and town engineer Keith Wilberg.
When the DOT crew saw the news cameras, they hesitated. They expected a private site visit, not a public meeting.
The Westport officials agreed to merely listen in to the discussion. Eventually, they talked.
DOT noted that planning for the project began nearly a decade ago. A public information session was held at Town Hall on July 9, 2019 (and previewed on “06880” — though at that point the project start date was the summer of 2021).
Only a dozen or so people attended that meeting.
A follow-up story on “06880” a few days later focused on curb cuts, and entrances and exits of parking lots. It drew 9 comments.
No one mentioned trees.
At Sakura yesterday, a DOT official said that the time to protest the tree cutting was long gone. He noted that no trees not in the right-of-way would be touched. But many are in that zone.
Still, there was hope. The final decision about the fate of Sakura’s 2 weeping cherry trees is now in the hands of Eversource. They may assent to trimming, rather than removal.
Meanwhile, though the Tree Board has no jurisdiction — US 1 is a state road — they strongly support preservation of the Sakura trees. First Selectwoman Jen Tooker has indicated support for the board.
Whatever the fate of 2 of Westport’s most iconic — and beloved trees — one thing is certain: Nearly every other tree on that corridor will be gone.
Get ready for some traffic tie-ups too. Construction is slated to end in April.
Paved paradise, Put up a Parking Lot….Joni Mitchell
With all of the trees being removed, will they be replaced?
This is such promising news!!!! Sho we be contacting someone at Eversource?
Is there any word on the fate of the stone walls? Will they be replaced? What else can we’re do to protect those trees?
It appears that Kathy Walsh DID discuss trees, and bemoaned that the state had removed so many without replacing them. Kathy mentioned the planting of 300 trees in the Post Rd beautification project as well…but perhaps most importantly the newly mandated P&Z requirement for the state to replace each tree they removed. Will that mandate apply to this project?
Kudos to the residents and Town officials trying to save these living iconic sakuras that provide a soothing connection to nature that offsets the manmade visual disturbance across the street.
I believe that their flowery explosion and shower of pink petal-drops each spring provides every passerby a smile, and a moment of respite from the unappealing urbanization metastisizing along their route to wherever.
Just a quick glance from away, but it seems odd that after ten years of planning there is no bike lane or provision for bikes.
very happy to see those Sakura trees were saved, Sakura was so important to my high school amis and I, 1 named his daughter Sakura (I don’t think his west coast raised wife knows why ;-), i.e., (long before they were helicopter parents of teens) my amis and I would leave school for 2-3 lunch periods to have lunch at sakura (also at onion alley), probably 1-2x/month when we were juniors and seniors and those trees were part of the ambiance even then 😉