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Ax not: Longshore trees spared, at least for now, pending review of removal plan

Published 10:32 am, Thursday, January 2, 2014

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  • First Selectman Jim Marpe has delayed, at least temporarily, a plan to cut down 15 of the large trees lining the Longshore Park driveway until there has been a public review of the proposal. Photo: Jarret Liotta / Westport News contributed
    First Selectman Jim Marpe has delayed, at least temporarily, a plan to cut down 15 of the large trees lining the Longshore Park driveway until there has been a public review of the proposal. Photo: Jarret Liotta

 

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Irmhild Streidt said she couldn't believe her eyes when she drove through the entrance to Longshore Park recently and found that the stately trees lining the driveway were tagged for removal.

"I was taken aback," the longtime town resident said Monday. "There is no need to take them down," Irmhild said of the 15 trees slated for removal. "The trees are not dead."

So, Streidt said, she sent an email to First Selectman Jim Marpe expressing her concerns.

She told him they are "healthy, strong trees which survived many storms," and were able to withstand "the furious, extreme wind forces of Hurricane Sandy" in October 2012.

More important, she said, "cutting these tall trees will also destroy the beauty of the entrance -- the gateway to Longshore Park." She called Longshore, "which recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of town ownership, is the crown jewel of Westport."

She told Marpe the planned tree cutting "is a major issue and requires full input from Westporters."

That will most likely happen now that Marpe has decided to temporarily delay the removal of the trees.

Marpe, in a press release last week, said he asked for the delay so that a written report by the town's tree warden, Bruce Lindsay, on the matter can be completed and submitted to him for review.

"This is a new issue for me and my administration," said Marpe, who took office in November. He said Lindsay will "prepare or my review a written report outlining his analysis and confirming his recommendations that the trees be removed."

"I have the utmost confidence in, and respect for, Mr. Lindsay, who recently came to Westport with excellent credentials in this field," Marpe said.

"However, in view of the importance of this issue and the discussion which it has generated, I have requested that Mr. Lindsay temporarily delay the tree removal and prepare this report."

As for resident input, Marpe said once he gets Lindsay's report -- within the next week -- "it is anticipated that a public meeting will be held to review the tree warden's analysis and recommendations." That public meeting should take place in the next couple of weeks, Marpe said Monday.

He said he did get a few emails concerning the trees, including Streidt's, but added the matter had been discussed, most recently in September, by the Parks and Recreation Committee "which had a public meeting to discuss the need for the tree removal."

He said the trees were tagged last week and would have been removed the "first full week of January" if he hadn't requested the delay.

Marpe said the controversial removal of trees along Main Street didn't enter into his decision. He said he viewed the Longshore matter "as its own event."

"I think it's a wonderful thing; I'm pleased they are taking a second look," Streidt said of the delay, adding she was "impressed by" Marpe's decision. "It gives an opportunity for the entire Westport community to have their input."

Streidt said she doesn't belong to any environmental group, but took action because "trees are living things" that don't have a voice of their own.