Today — the 1st day of winter — the weather is hardly “frightful.” In fact, it’s fantastic.
Plenty of people flocked to Longshore on this beautiful solstice. As they jogged or biked, they noticed that 14 trees lining the entrance are tagged for removal.
According to a notice from the tree warden — dated December 19 — the trees will be taken down within 10 days, unless the public appeals to stop the process.
Westporters seem surprised.
They shouldn’t be.
On September 19, I posted a story about this. Called “New Life For Old Trees,” it read:
The trees lining the entrance to Longshore are handsome and stately.
They’re also old. And dangerous.
The Parks and Recreation Department, with the consent of the tree warden, has identified approximately 15 trees that are the last of the originals along the entry road. They’re identified by their poor shape, and the condition of their crowns.
These trees have reached — or will soon — the end of their useful lives. The crowns are sparse and misshaped, as a result of deterioration and falling dead wood over many years. Large branches have fallen — threatening golfers, drivers, bicyclists and joggers — and the trees themselves may topple in high winds.
Nearly 20 years ago, Parks and Rec realized what was coming “down the road.” They planted a new strand of trees, further back along both sides of the entrance. Now mature, they create a visual row of trunks and shade. When the 15 oldest trees — which also crowd and shade the new trees — are cut, the new ones will benefit.
Parks and Rec — and the Westport Tree Board – understand the love many Westporters have for trees. (Until they fall on your property.) Thanks to the new trees, there will be no real visual impact after removal.
And the department and board hope the old trees will have a 2nd life.
I asked “06880” readers to suggest new ideas for the old trees. Only 6 readers responded.
Whether it was the beginning of a new school year, the start of autumn or whatever, I don’t know. But the story did not stir the reaction I thought it would.
Now the removal of the trees is becoming reality. A number of readers have emailed me about it. RTM chair Eileen Flug received 2 calls in the past 15 minutes.
Earlier this morning, “06880” reader Marcia Falk wrote “06880”:
I have not seen any article about this decision posted by the town or in the local news.
These trees significantly enhance the beauty of Longshore Park. They are irreplaceable in the short term. All of us know the havoc and damage which the severe storms have wrought upon our local environment, and it is possible that the decision to remove these trees is justified. However, before such a dramatic and irretrievable act is completed, the public should be given full disclosure as to reasons behind the warden’s decision.
Longshore Park is one of Westport’s most important, beautiful, and adored environmental resources. Anything that is done on such a major scale should be publicly announced and explained. Most local people are so busy that they have no time to visit the park and are unaware of the situation and the threat to the park.
The removal of these trees will drastically alter the landscape of Longshore Park. Before these trees are removed I believe it is the responsibility of the town to explain why they ALL have to removed, and if so, what are the plans to replant for the future?
I sent Marcia a link to my September 19 story. She replied:
If all these trees are in the poor condition their removal makes sense. However, I seriously doubt that ALL the trees have to come down at once and there is no immediate emergency.
Furthermore, it is not only unreasonable, but bordering on deceptive, that the tree warden announces his decision during the major holiday week. Although the warden may be abiding by the law, he is not fulfilling the purpose of the law enabling citizens the right to be informed within a timely manner. By posting this at the height of the Christmas holiday, it appears that the tree warden wishes to avoid input from the residents who love the park. This is not the way a public employee who is hired to serve the needs of the town should treat our citizens.
We should insist that the removal of the tree posting be withdrawn and re-released on January 2nd for the benefit of community disclosure.
There it stands.
Whether the trees also remain standing — well, that remains to be seen.