A big black bear’s weekend ramble through Westport elicited plenty of chatter. There were blog posts, Facebook photos, some bad puns (see headline above), and predictable jokes about what bears do in the woods.
But lurking behind all the heh-heh-I’m-not-worried comments are serious issues.
An “06880” reader — who has had extended conversations with the Merritt Parkway Conservancy and state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection — emailed me with several concerns.
“State urban forest experts have suggested that deforestation of the Merritt Parkway, and clear-cutting for large developments like the new YMCA at Mahackeno, will result in more wildlife venturing into residential areas from previously forested areas.
“And a black bear appears in backyards soon after.”
The bear, on Tupelo Road.
“Although a bear may be categorized as a singular public safety issue, it should be considered in context with other issues,” the reader continues.
“Reduction of urban forest in suburban communities ultimately results in other public safety issues. For instance, Westport is wedged between 2 significant diesel fume corridors. Particulate matter from both the Merritt and I-95 corridors is filtered by the urban forest.” Increased levels of asthma may result.
Clear-cutting dangerous trees on the Merritt Parkway solves one problem. But traffic jams — due to tree work, accidents or just plain rush hour — brings other environmental problems.
The reader also worries that after large parcels of land are deforested, they are paved with conventional asphalt — not modern “pervious paving,” which reduces runoff, traps suspended solids, and filters pollutants from the water.
“Certainly we cannot solve everything instantly,” the reader acknowledges.
“The bear is not the primary issue. But it could be an example of cause and effect specific to Merritt Parkway and Mahackeno deforestation. We need to identify issues as they arise, and together plan viable strategies for urban forest management.”