Fall is here. Soon, trees throughout town will blaze in a spectacular show of reds, oranges and yellows.
Naturally, an alert “06880” reader wants to cut some down.
In recent storms, this is a not uncommon Westport sight.
We’ve all noticed trees around town that are destined to fall across roads at any moment. Their roots are totally exposed. They lean at 45-degree angles over the street. Dead branches dangle in the air everywhere.
In our heads, we place bets on when the tree will come down: the next rainstorm? The next snowstorm? The next sunny day?
The deaths on the Merritt Parkway recently, the school bus incident Monday and the lengthy power restoration after Irene prove that trees can be both deadly and ignored.
Can’t the town be more proactive? Isn’t there some sort of tree warden who should be on top of this? If we want to call in with reports of dangerous trees, whom do we contact? Is it a wasted effort?
Even fishermen should be wary: There’s a tree on the other side of the river from Clinton Avenue (at the base of the killer hill there) that is hanging maybe 30 degrees above the water. Any day now…
Deej Webb identified 5 “homicidal trees” on the Merritt Parkway — big ones, with the potential to fall and kill someone.
And that was before this month’s monster storm.
The 1980 Staples graduate grew up with the mindset of most Westporters: Suburbia = trees = wonderful. You didn’t think about the presence of trees, any more than you questioned air or cookouts.
But on his daily commute to New Canaan — he teaches high school history there — Deej saw trees that could kill him, as easily as they killed several motorists in the past few years.
He saw CL&P crews trimming branches around power lines — but leaving enormous trees standing. The temporary fixes seldom worked. “Four times a year, I lose power,” Deej says. “It’s completely preventable.”
As he looked — really looked — around Westport, he realized trees are not always aesthetically pleasing, either. Deej says that trees block what once were majestic vistas. As an F. Scott Fitzgerald aficionado, he knows that when the author lived on South Compo, next to what later became Longshore, there were no trees at all — the author saw clear down to the Sound and across to Long Island, providing inspiration for several “Great Gatsby” scenes.
This tree sits 2 yards from my patio. I hope it doesn't kill me.
As a student of history, Deej knows that from colonial days right through to the early part of this century, there were far fewer trees in Westport.
“What we’re seeing here today is not New England,” Deej says. “It’s a man-made arboreal paradise.”
When he discussed his counter-intuitive — if not heretical — ideas with friends, they thought he was joking. Then they looked around, saw what he saw, and figured he was maybe half-kidding.
After last week’s storm, they stopped laughing.
“Everyone I know spent a lot of time clearing their property,” Deej says. “And now everyone is noticing how many of their neighbors’ trees threaten their own property.”
Deej and his friends have a few ideas. They want to work with the town to identify dangerous trees, and find discretionary funds to cut them down. They envision a volunteer effort involving civic groups, Staples sports teams and Boy Scouts (though, Deej notes, “you can’t really hand chainsaws to kids”).
They would like to post photos on “06880” and WestportNow.com, asking: “Why is this tree still standing?”
They hope to petition the state to take care of dangerous Merritt Parkway trees.
Yet for all his dreaming, Deej is a realist.
“I know it’s expensive,” he says. “And I know people in Westport have fought the removal of a single tree at Longshore. They’ll chain themselves to trees to save them.
“The environmentalists will talk about the importance of trees’ roles in oxygen.”
So he’ll settle for this: A townwide discussion of whether Westport is overly enamored of trees.
“Is this a crackpot idea from someone with too much time on his hands?” he asks.
“Or is it an idea whose time has come?”
(“06880” readers: Answer those questions by clicking the “Comments” link at the top and bottom of this post. To contact Deej directly, email him: email@example.com)
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