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Root cause: Tree Board aims to revive role, programs

Updated 9:05 am, Saturday, February 16, 2013
  • Discussing ways to generate public participation in Tree Board programs are, from left, board members  Judy James, Chairwoman Pamela Klomberg and Tracey Hammer, with John Broadbin, the town's deputy public works director. WESTPORT NEWS, CT 2/15/13 Photo: Jarret Liotta / Westport News contributed
    Discussing ways to generate public participation in Tree Board programs are, from left, board members Judy James, Chairwoman Pamela Klomberg and Tracey Hammer, with John Broadbin, the town's deputy public works director. WESTPORT NEWS, CT 2/15/13 Photo: Jarret Liotta

 

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Westport's Tree Board, hoping to plant the seeds of renewal for its role in town government, is looking for help.

"We're trying to revitalize the Tree Board," Pamela Klomberg, the chairwoman of the board, which now has only three members, said at Friday's meeting of the panel.

Klomberg currently serves on a state task force appointed by Gov. Dannel Malloy, the purpose of which she said "is to develop templates for municipalities to manage their urban forests."

Following the severe storms of the last few years, questions of tree liability and management have prompted state officials to consider options and ideas about maintaining both forested lands and trees in developed areas, many of which may be implemented by local governments.

"We represent a municipality that is not yet, doesn't yet, have a cohesive urban forest management plan," Klomberg said.

"Are these things the town wants?" she said. "We don't know, but I think that our task is to suggest and recommend best practices."

Westport now allocates enough funding to pay for a tree warden's services only one day a week. Money is also limited for the monitoring, removal, planting, maintenance and pruning of trees. First Selectman Gordon Joseloff's proposed budget for 2013-14, however, includes a $170,000 to create a full-time tree warden position and to increase the town's overall tree work.

The two other board members -- Judy James and Tracey Hammer -- are focusing on websites and social media to spread the word about the board and its mission.

"It's an opportunity to get our story out -- what we're doing, engage participation," Klomberg said. "And we have a partner that is willing to help us do this (computer) work."

Klomberg said volunteers are needed for a variety of tasks, including networking, outreach, education and, potentially, political action.

"We have been a town historically of removal," said John Broadbin, deputy director of the Department of Public Works, "with a one day per week part time tree warden.

He said his department wants additional funds for more tree cutting, stump grinding, replanting and pruning.

Klomberg said she is "very hopeful" the Board of Finance will approve the preliminary budget, with the additional money for tree work and personnel, at its March 6 meeting.

Klomberg would also like to see the Westport Tree Board get involved with a May tree festival in Norwalk.

"Norwalk has a number of organizations that collaborate with the Department of Public Works in their urban forest initiatives," she said. "I attended last year and was really impressed with the exhibitors and opportunities for public education."

This year, she said, Norwalk is inviting surrounding towns to participate in the free event.

"Westport has the opportunity to take a table ... and we can do whatever we like with that table," Klomberg said. "I think it's a really great opportunity for us to engage the public and educate Westport residents.