Tag Archives: Bruce Lindsay

An Evergreen Grows In Westport

First, it was natural land: wooded, a bit wet.

Then it was cleared for farming. Eventually, nature took over again.

Stone walls show that this wooded land was used long ago for farming.

In 1959, Lillian Wadsworth sold 12 acres to the town of Westport — for $1. The year before, she’d given 62 acres to the fledgling Mid-Fairfield County Youth Museum. The organization later changed its name — first to the Nature Center, then to Earthplace.

A philanthropist, artist and sculptor, Wadsworth was active in the Westport Garden Club, Westport Library, and various preservation and horticutural organizations. 

The Board of Education considered the site — bordered by Stonybrook Road and Woodside Lane — for a school. Residents of the quiet neighborhood objected.

Eventually, the town designated the 12 acres for passive recreation.

The Lillian Wadsworth Arboretum is called “Stony Brook Rd property” on this Google Maps Earth view. Earthplace is at top.

About 20 years ago, the town explored selling the site to a developer. Nearby resident Dick Fincher and town attorney Stan Atwood helped scuttle that plan.

In 2009, a micro-burst felled hundreds of trees. They sat, rotting, for several years.

In 2014 Fincher and Lou Mall got 1st Selectman Jim Marpe interested in the site. When tree warden Bruce Lindsay saw it, he immediately recognized its potential.

With a $50,000 urban forestry grant — and hundreds of volunteer hours — a few trails were cut. Fincher and neighbor John Howe played key roles, and saved a beautiful Norway maple.

Dick Fincher, at the entrance to the Wadsworth Arboretum (corner of Stoneybrook Road and Woodside Lane).

A Norway maple at the Wadsworth Arboretum. The teepee nearby was built by students.

Since then, volunteer restoration efforts have continued. The land was given an official name: The Lillian Wadsworth Arboretum.

Now Fincher and Stein — both members of Westport’s Tree Board — are kicking the project into high gear. The Board has formed a non-profit — Westport Evergreen — to solicit foundation, corporate, civic group and individual funding to manage, maintain and improve open spaces throughout town.

The start of the Eloise Ray trail, on Stonybrook Road. Eloise Ray was a noted landscape architect.

In addition to the Wadsworth Arboretum, Westport Evergreen has done preliminary work at Baron’s South, the 32-acre wooded site between South Compo and Imperial Avenue.

So far, 40% of the Wadsworth site work has been completed. Dangerous deadfalls and invasives were removed; a trail plan has been established, and several trails added. Specimen vegetation has been planted, signage installed, and benches and tables were made by Stein from salvaged wood.

Dick Stein made this bench from salvaged wood. Lou Mall invited fellow RTM members here for a picnic.

Clearing the massive amount of underbrush is “not a job for amateurs,” says Dick Fincher.

Dick Fincher stands on a bridge built earlier this summer by Lou Mall, Dick Stein and tree warden Bruce Lindsay.

Dead creepers line a Wadswworth Arboretum trail.

Still ahead: a visitors’ information kiosk, 3- or 4-car parking area, and path along the Stonybrook perimeter.

A visitors’ kiosk will be built here. All the wood comes from the Wadsworth Arboretum site.

Westport Evergreen hopes to organize work days with groups like the Boys Scouts, Staples’ Service League of Boys, and Rotary and garden clubs.

One of the trails already cut at the Wadsworth Arboretum. Many have been created by students.

Last year, several Staples senior interns and members of Mike Aitkenhead’s environmental studies classes worked at the Arboretum.

Westport Evergreen seeks contributions to the general fund, or for planting a tree or purchasing a bench. Email blindsay@westportct.gov, or write Lillian Wadsworth Arboretum, c/o Tree Warden, 110 Myrtle Avenue, Westport, CT 06880.

When funding is completed, this rock will bear a plaque saying “Lillian Wadsworth Arboretum.”

In the meantime, wander over to the Lillian Wadsworth Arboretum. It’s open 365 days a year.

And it’s free.

That’s priceless.

If A Tree Falls…

Because he’s our tree warden, many Westporters assume Bruce Lindsay controls every tree in town.

Nope. According to state statute, tree wardens control only “trees (and shrubs) on public road or grounds.”

So Lindsay oversees approximately 120 miles of town-owned roads and rights of way. He also works with Parks and Rec and the Board of Education on their properties as needed.

Lindsay does not manage trees on private property, private roads and driveways, state roads, state parks, commercial property or non-profit private lands.

So what happens when a tree falls from one private property onto another? Who’s responsible for clean-up and damage?

Negligence? Or act of God?

Negligence? Or act of God?

Lindsay says that’s usually a matter of common law (case law), not statute. The process falls under the “act of God” rules. The affected neighbor pays for his own property damage — including tree removal, clean-up and related expenses.

Lindsay emphasizes: “The homeowner has no duty to his neighbors for property damage resulting from trees and branches falling from the homeowner’s property, especially when due to a true ‘act of God’ such as a severe wind, rain or snow.”

However, he adds — citing the state Office of Legislative Research — “as a general rule under the common law, a property owner has a duty to maintain the trees on his or her property in a way that prevents them from harming a neighbor’s property.

“If the property owner knows, or reasonably should know, that a defect in the trees (e.g., rot) poses an unreasonable danger to others, the owner must eliminate the danger. If the owner does not, he or she may be liable for the damage the tree causes.”

A well-maintained tree is a beautiful thing.

A well-maintained tree is a beautiful thing.

Lindsay often fields calls from residents who say that a neighbor’s dead trees hang over their yard, yet nothing is being done about them. That’s when it’s time to send a certified letter, and ask for relief in 30 days.

However, Lindsay emphasizes that no law requires this. Still, he says, it helps to have your complaint in writing.

Lindsay recommends that a homeowner hire an arborist to perform a ground-level assessment of surrounding trees, and issue a report of the findings. There may be a small fee associated with this assessment, depending on the company and intent to perform work.

But it’s the right — and neighborly — thing to do.

Talkin’ Trees

As eagle-eyed Westporters spot tiny patches of green* around town, can buds on trees be far beyond?

Probably. But as the temperature climbs near 50 — be still, my heart! — it can’t hurt to talk about trees.

Tree warden Bruce Lindsay recently updated 1st Selectman Jim Marpe and the  Westport Tree Board about “tree-related accomplishments” over the past year.

Among the tree projects last year: the median on Jesup Road.

Among the tree projects last year: the median on Jesup Road.

More than 100 were planted in Westport since last spring. Sites include downtown, Town Hall, the transfer station, Staples High School, Veterans Green, Jesup Road and Longshore.

Many were donated by Planters’ Choice Nursery in Newtown. They’ve provided more for 2015, to be used for Main Street improvements, Parks and Rec plantings, on roadsides, and in Tribute Tree and Arbor Day projects.

Donations of trees, planting services and funds also came from the Westport Woman’s Club, Smith Richardson Foundation, and local residents.

In January, Public Works and the Parks and Rec Department conducted a tree inventory on 200 acres of land at Longshore and Compo Beach. The information — including species, diameter, health, risk factors, maintenance needs and potential threats — will be merged with the town’s Geographical Information System.

Ahead: an inventory of trees on all public properties. That will generate a management plan, to be used for years to come.

New trees will add to the beauty of downtown.

New trees will add to the beauty of downtown.

Westporters love our trees — until they fall on our power lines, grow dangerously old or tall, or otherwise cause concern. Thanks to our tree warden and board, it looks like we’re emerging from a long walk in the woods of neglect.

PS: Interested in volunteering with the Tree Board, or learning more about Westport’s trees? Email treewarden@westportct.gov, or call 203-341-1134.

*A color often associated with grass. 

New Life For Old Trees

Last January, tree warden Bruce Lindsay determined that some of the mature trees in the beloved entrance drive to Longshore had reached the end of their useful lives. For safety reasons, they had to go.

This being Westport, the decision created a firestorm (figuratively). Many folks lamented the loss of the iconic and beautiful trees. Many others pointed out that nothing lasts forever — and that, though beautiful, they’d become dangerous.

The Longshore entrance road, several years ago.

The Longshore entrance road, several years ago.

The discussion on “06880” was robust. Amid the fury, several commenters suggested that the trees be repurposed for furniture, benches or in other useful ways.

The trees were removed. The entryway still looks great, thanks to the foresight of Parks and Recreation officials 20 years ago who planted replacement trees near the older ones they knew would eventually go.

Now the old trees are back — just as some smart Westporters suggested.

Tomorrow (Monday, November 10, 2 p.m.), a hand-crafted bench repurposed from those trees will be dedicated at the Westport Library, near the copy center. A pictorial exhibit depicts the entire process.

A repurposed table on display in the library.

The repurposed bench on display in the library…

Lindsay, First Selectman Jim Marpe, library director Maxine Bleiweis and “furniture artist” Zeb Essylstyn will answer questions.

Unlike most old trees — which end up in landfill or as mulch — the Longshore specimens live on handsomely. Essylstyn’s Higganum, Connecticut-based company City Bench created 2 tables, plus the library bench. The tables are on display at Town Hall.

...and the Town Hall table.

…and the Town Hall table.

All are on sale to the public. So are additional pieces that City Bench will create. A portion of the proceeds goes to the town’s Tree Fund, to support further plantings.

If you want to buy a table or bench, email info@city-bench.com, or call 860-716-8111.

To simply admire them, head to the library or Town Hall.

Downtown Trees Get Priority Treatment

Remember all the hand-wringing 2 years ago, when trees were suddenly removed from Main Street? And when others were posted for removal in front of Town Hall?

Westporters love their trees. And, true to its campaign promises, the Marpe administration is making sure the next generation of trees gets the care they need.

A company cleverly named “Care of Trees” is deep-watering the roots of 5 new trees on Main Street, with an injection method. One or 2 slow-drip 20-gallon bags of water continue to nurture each tree throughout the week.

Tree care on Main Street.

Tree care on Main Street.

Taking care of young trees after planting is tricky, notes tree warden Bruce Lindsay.

“Their root systems are new. Watering is really important, to help them take hold. Street tree planting requires a great deal of planning, design, maintenance and funding to reach establishment.”

The Main Street trees were donated. The weekly cost of $300 per visit by Care of Trees comes out of the town’s tree maintenance budget. Lindsay says that after this year — once the trees are acclimated to the environmental conditions — watering will not be needed.

“The initial growing years are hardest on newly planted trees, especially in difficult site conditions like Main Street,” Lindsay notes. “Heat is radiated from cars, asphalt and sidewalks. There is limited root space and lower water access.”

The 8 new trees around Town Hall are getting the same treatment (below):

Tree in front of Town Hall

Meanwhile, Lindsay had a company trim and crown clean the trees around the Imperial Avenue parking lot, near the bridge leading to the newly renovated Levitt Pavilion.

Invasive growth was removed, and the area was scoured for safety and higher visiblity purposes. Each tree was climbed and cleaned, in a very detailed process.

Tree work being done near the Imperial Avenue foot bridge.

Tree work being done near the Imperial Avenue foot bridge.

Lindsay says, “People see me removing hazardous trees. But a lot of my job consists of stewardship: trimming, cleaning, watering. We want to make sure we preserve what we have, and mitigate any potential problems.”

Trees — their cutting, growth and regeneration — will continue to be a hot topic in Westport.

But right now, their maintenance has not fallen by the wayside.

Marpe Makes It Official: Longshore Trees Must Go

Westport First Selectman Jim Marpe released this statement today:

After reviewing Tree Warden Bruce Lindsay’s report and his recommendation to remove the remaining original 15 trees, and after participating in the public on-site information session with a number of citizens and RTM members, I have advised Mr. Lindsay and Parks and Recreation Director Stuart McCarthy to proceed with their recommendation.

This recommendation was an extremely difficult one to make given the age and size of the trees, as well as their iconic presence at Longshore. I would like to thank all those who attended Saturday’s information session and who helped me with my decision.

Mr. Lindsay has made it clear that, among other things, there is a safety issue which the town cannot ignore and which requires the removal of these trees.  Most of the larger trees along the entrance drive have already come down over the years and, as stated during the information session, the removal of the additional trees reflects the final stage of a landscape plan which has been in place for over 20 years. Fortunately, the town had the foresight to start the tree replacement process many years ago.

Longshore trees tagged for removal along the entrance road.

Longshore trees tagged for removal along the entrance road.

I am fully aware that the entrance to Longshore Park presents one of the more scenic views in Westport. There are many newer trees along the entrance which are doing well and I believe that as these new trees continue to mature, they will preserve that familiar majestic look. The removal of the trees presents us with an opportunity to plan for the future. Many helpful suggestions to address the planting, care and maintenance of trees within Longshore Park and on other town owned property in general have come out of our recent discussions. With those suggestions in mind, I will:

1) Consult with the Parks and Recreation Commission and staff to ensure that a sufficient number of trees are planted to replace those that are being removed.  (In this regard, Charlie Haberstroh, Chairman of the Parks & Recreation Commission, will propose to the Commission that two trees be planted for each one that is removed within the Park);

2) Seek recommendations from the Tree Warden and the Tree Board on how to adopt a program of tree preservation in town which balances aesthetics with safety; and

3) Look into establishing a fund to which citizens may contribute for the purpose of purchasing trees to be planted on town property.

I remain committed to ensuring that Longshore will continue to be of great pride to Westport residents today and for many generations to come.

Tree Warden’s Report: Old And Dangerous Longshore Trees Must Go

Last month, First Selectman Jim Marpe directed tree warden Bruce Lindsay to report on the condition of the 15 trees slated for removal along the entryway to Longshore.

Today, the tree warden delivered his report.

Among the key findings:

The 11 Tulip Poplars and 4 Norway Maples are 50 to 80 years old. The trees have been cared for extensively over the years. The warden’s initial decision to post the trees for removal was based on observation and tree knowledge.

“The Tulip is not recommended for street use, and is extremely susceptible to drought and a variety of diseases,” Lindsay wrote. “It is best found in forests in a thicket of protected stands of diverse species….It does not respond well to salt and is known to deteriorate from drought and sunscald.”

The Tulips have reached the end of their life spans. They have reached their maximum heights and widths. They also show “the characteristics of drought, salt abuse, wind and storm damage, road side or urban abuses such as: soil and root compaction, salt and snow pileups, bark damage from being repeated nailed and stapled…these trees have become highly defective.”

Tulips at Longshore. The captions in the report describe (clockwise from upper left): compromised branch structure; extensive pruning due to breaks/decay; massive bark rot sloughing off in sections; weak canopy and leaf cover.

Tulips at Longshore. The captions in the report describe (clockwise from upper left): compromised branch structure; extensive pruning due to breaks/decay; massive bark rot sloughing off in sections; weak canopy and leaf cover.

Lindsay said that the Maples have several rotting sections. There are extensive hollow sections, indicating interior rot and water damage. They also exhibit a condition called “co-dominance,” creating a likelihood of breaking from wind shear.

The Maples have also reached their maturity. They too are at the end of their natural lifespan. They have a tendency to choke out all plant life and grass below them, and “create numerous problems along streets when dropping weak wood and debris.”

While the allee landscape design of the entrance to Longshore is “pleasant and gives a tremendous visual as the trees are generally uniform in specie and represent a serene view,” the fault of the allee principle is that the same species or similar trees were all planted at the same time.

“Had the species been diversified and newer trees been planted in the same line over a course of time, perhaps the hardship of this final removal” would not be so difficult, Lindsay wrote.

The warden praised the Parks and Recreation Department’s planning for the removal of the trees, begun 25 years ago. The new trees are growing in balance, and because they are further from the roadway, they enjoy enhanced root growth and reduced salt exposure from snow removal. They also are safer for walkers and joggers.

The more than 75 newer trees in the entrance represent “careful planning, culture and the next generation of roadway-framing trees to enhance the entry for several decades to come.” The mix of oaks, maples, zelkova, beech and sycamore will enhance the allee.

Photos of the Norway Maples in the report show (clockwise from upper left): rot and decay; open hollows; weak crotches, and one entire side of the tree dead.

Photos of the Norway Maples in the report show (clockwise from upper left): rot and decay; open hollows; weak crotches, and one entire side of the tree dead.

Lindsay said he posted the removal of the 15 trees at the end of December to allow for removal during the period of lowest use of Longshore. The tree removal service will use a crane, several trucks and numerous employees — work that is best performed when the ground is frozen or covered in snow.

In summary, Lindsay wrote, Parks and Rec has “made great efforts in recreating the allee along the roadway. The removal is not going to eliminate the tree lined effect…The grand trees at Longshore Club Park represent a period of iconic splendor and significance but they are failing and the new trees are in place to recoup the same effect for generations to come. The decision to remove these fifteen trees was not one made in haste.”

As tree warden — with “primary duty to see that all town owned roads and grounds allow safe passage” — Lindsay affirms that the trees in question are in “extremely poor health and decline, are of poor species” and are in danger of falling or losing limbs.

Because of their hazards, he said they must be removed.

To read the full report, click here.

Lindsay and Parks and Recreation Director Stuart McCarthy will hold a public information session at 9 a.m. this Saturday (January 11) at Longshore to explain the decision to remove the 15 trees. The public is invited to attend. The session will include walking a portion of the park. Dress accordingly.