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Taking Root

The Plight of Neighborhood Trees



Earlier this summer, I stepped onto my front porch to get my mail and noticed a sign tacked onto the enormous maple tree across the street. Curious, I headed over to investigate. “Public notice of tree/shrub removal,” the notice began, and then continued: “It is hereby given that the tree/shrub will be removed for the following reason.” On the line below, in thick, black marker, someone had written “In Decline.” The notice concluded with instructions about how to object to the removal of the tree/shrub (one has ten days, after which a public hearing is held) and the printed name of our Fairfield tree warden, the date, and the Fairfield town seal.

I have a complicated relationship with trees. On one hand, one of the benefits of living in the Stratfield section is our tree-lined streets. My side of the street was all farmland until the late 1930s, so we are blessed with some truly remarkable (and remarkably tall) 80-year-old trees. These natural wonders provide much-needed shade, beautify our neighborhood, and provide homes for birds and chipmunks and Dewey the albino squirrel. (Yes, I named him “Dewey.” You’re welcome.)

On the other hand, old trees bring risks. Their complicated root systems buckle sidewalks and pierce sewer lines. Limbs and branches tumble during storms. (Back in the late nineties, during a particularly bad thunderstorm, a tree fell on my Saab; this led to my brief but militant “anti-tree” phase.) And trees, like all living things, eventually find themselves in decline—so, for the betterment of our neighborhood and the safety of our community, I suppose those trees must be felled.

Fairfield is a town that loves our trees—all 300,000 of them, a number that only accounts for those growing on public right-of-ways. For the past thirty years, the Arbor Day Foundation has named Fairfield one of 17 “Tree City USA communities” in Connecticut. (Fairfield and Stamford hold the longest such designations in the state).

If the information provided on Fairfield’s website is any indication, tree warden Jeffrey Minder has his hands full. Tree work receives one of three “priority” designations, ranging from “high priority” (“those trees determined to be hazardous to the public”) to “low priority” (“non-safety related tree work”). Trees cannot be removed “for doing what trees do naturally,” only for posing “risk to the public health, safety or welfare.” Residents are not allowed to trim their own trees without a permit or to plant trees on town property; however, Fairfield does participate in a tree-planting program in which a resident can, for a small cost, select and plant “a tree appropriate for your site…on the public right-of-way along your property line.” The Town of Fairfield even has a Forestry Committee that works with the Tree Warden to promote “awareness and appreciation for the environmental, economic, and cultural value of trees in Fairfield.”

Opinion about the removal of the tree on my street is decidedly mixed. Evelyn Rubak takes a pragmatic approach. “No one wants to cut a tree down,” she says, “but it’s in ill health. They’re old trees. They’re going to have to come down.” A few doors down the block, Jill Keating-Herbst is a bit more reluctant to let go of our neighborhood trees. “Ever since the storms,” she tells me, “I think there’s been a war on trees...I don’t like when they take down too many trees. It’s what makes the character of this neighborhood. It’s what makes people want to live here.”

As for me, I can’t quite decide. Frankly, I adore that big, old, flawed tree. It’s craggy and has character and history, its branches and trunk having outlasted the cows and sheep that grazed beside it back when my yard was just a meadow. That said, I also love my neighbors’ roof, and if any one of these trees were to come down in a storm, there would be devastating consequences. A recent article in the Hartford Courant noted that the tornadoes and microbursts that hit Connecticut in April led to more damage to our electrical system than occurred during Superstorm Sandy, destroying 288 miles of electrical lines.

And what caused much of this damage? You guessed it: trees. So I guess we can’t mourn the loss of an occasional tree, particularly if it has reached the end of its life cycle. The Town of Fairfield might decide to plant a sapling in its place. Perhaps we can imagine that sapling not as a replacement but as an extension—another chapter in the story of our neighborhood, and another chance to take root in the ground and reach toward the sky.


STAR TREES  Fairfield is home to the state’s largest red maple, white bark magnolia, and dawn redwood.

 

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December 2018

Saturday, December 8 and Sunday, December 9, 11am – 12:30pm & 1:30 – 3pm Register online at http://www.fairfieldhistory.org Enjoy a “tea” with cookies and milk with characters from “A...

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Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
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Cost: Members: Free; Adult: $5; Seniors & Student: $3; Children under 5: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
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Telephone: 203-899-0606
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Cost: Members: Free; Adult: $5; Seniors & Student: $3; Children under 5: Free

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Fairfield Museum and History Center
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Contact Name: Stepping Stones Museum for Children
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Cost: Free

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Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
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Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
Telephone: 203-831-9063
Contact Name: Maritime Garage Gallery
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Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
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Telephone: 2034136735
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Sponsor: Fairfield University Art Museum
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Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
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More information

In this key moment in our national history and the struggle for women’s equality and freedom of expression, the Fairfield Museum’s exhibition “Flappers: Fashion and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
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Cost: Free

Where:
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Cost: Members and students with ID free. $10-$25

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1 Museum Dr
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Telephone: 2034136735
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More information

Show More...
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Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

Each night from November 20th through December 31st the museum is transformed into a dazzling holiday light extravaganza! Every surface of the museum’s exterior becomes a canvas...

Cost: Free

Where:
Stepping Stones Museum for Children
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Telephone: 203-899-0606
Contact Name: Stepping Stones Museum for Children
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More information

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Cost: $15

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84 Thimble Islands Road
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Sponsor: The Vagabond Theater Company
Telephone: 203-520-8332
Contact Name: John R Smith Jnr
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Cost: $38/ticket; $98 VIP; Members Save: $3/ticket

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Website »

More information

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720 Pequot Avenue
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View map »


Sponsor: Pequot Library
Telephone: 203-259-0346
Contact Name: Pequot Library
Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

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View map »


Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
Telephone: 203-831-9063
Contact Name: Maritime Garage Gallery
Website »

More information

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Cost: Members: Free; Adult: $5; Seniors & Student: $3; Children under 5: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »

More information

ReTooled: Highlights from the Hechinger Collection, an engaging and thought-provoking look at the unexpected subject of tools, will be on view at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, CT, from September...

Cost: Members and students with ID free. $10-$25

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Dr
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 2034136735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
Website »

More information

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Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

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Cost: Members: $15; Non-Members: $18 per house.

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »

More information

In this key moment in our national history and the struggle for women’s equality and freedom of expression, the Fairfield Museum’s exhibition “Flappers: Fashion and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: $15

Where:
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View map »


Sponsor: The Vagabond Theater Company
Telephone: 203-520-8332
Contact Name: John R Smith Jnr
Website »

More information

A two-night Zeppelin throwdown is coming back to The Warehouse this December. It is no secret that women rock, and rock hard. Seeing the all-female Led Zeppelin tribute...

Cost: $38; $98 VIP; Members Save: $3/ticket

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Website »

More information

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Cost: Members: Free; Adult: $5; Seniors & Student: $3; Children under 5: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »

More information

ReTooled: Highlights from the Hechinger Collection, an engaging and thought-provoking look at the unexpected subject of tools, will be on view at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, CT, from September...

Cost: Members and students with ID free. $10-$25

Where:
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1 Museum Dr
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 2034136735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
Website »

More information

Each night from November 20th through December 31st the museum is transformed into a dazzling holiday light extravaganza! Every surface of the museum’s exterior becomes a canvas...

Cost: Free

Where:
Stepping Stones Museum for Children
303 West Avenue
Norwalk, CT  06850
View map »


Telephone: 203-899-0606
Contact Name: Stepping Stones Museum for Children
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
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