It’s tough to take down trees here on public land without an uproar.
Westporters howled 3 years ago, when 15 tulip poplars and Norway maples lining the Longshore entrance road were slated for removal. There was a similar brouhaha when a number of Main Street trees were sacrificed for light poles.
But very quietly earlier this month, several dozen trees — not far from the center of downtown — were cut down. We’ve heard hardly a peep.
The key is that those latest trees were on the Baron’s South property. That’s the 22-acre site between Compo Road South and Imperial Avenue. We — well, the town — bought it in 1999. But we’ve never decided exactly how to use the land.
It’s magnificent: hilly, wild and filled with wildlife. It’s been minimally maintained, which suits some people fine. Others think it needs a bit more care.
Most Westporters have no idea it even exists. So the recent Parks & Recreation Department project — to clear overgrown brush, vines, tree branches and other debris, and (oh yeah) chop down a number of trees — hardly registered.
Of course, a few folks noticed.
One “06880” reader emailed to say that when a friend “came upon such woodland carnage, he became so sick to his stomach he had to leave.” Both were appalled that such “clear-cutting” took place without any notice.
Others hailed the project.
Scott Smith wrote:
The property has fascinated me since moving to this part of town 20 years ago. I’ve hiked, biked and explored the place even before the town bought it.
These photos hardly capture the transformation of the overgrown and long neglected grounds, or the number of trees cleared from the landscape.
The tree clearing has opened up views of the Baron’s old manor house from nearly every part of the park. I never realized the views it commanded from its hilltop setting. The new vistas from the high ground also reveal glimpses of downtown and the steeples of Assumption Church across the river, and Saugatuck Church on the other side of the Post Road.
The loss of so many (but certainly not all) shows how rugged and steep the site is; there are more than a few slopes and ravines that would make for double-diamond sled runs if the town would ever allow it, which they won’t.
On the flat land closer to Imperial and near the Senior Center is a small nursery of trees and shrubs packed in deep beds of tree mulch. I suspect tree warden Bruce Lindsay has a well thought-out re-landscaping plan.
Can’t wait to see how this most hidden of the town-owned jewels shapes up this spring. It’s definitely going to be a huge change.
It already is. Whether that change is positive or negative is up for debate.
By the small group of people who even know it happened.