NORWALK, Conn. – As some folks were preparing for Earth Day, others were cutting down trees.
“The complete destruction of the entire tree line along the Norwalk Railroad tracks is horrific!!!!” Katherine Snedaker said Friday in an email to City officials.
Snedaker wanted the City to stop the carnage but Planning and Zoning Director Steven Kleppin told her the work was being done by the Connecticut Department of Transportation.
“The City is equally upset,” Norwalk Chief of Staff Laoise King wrote to Snedaker. “This is a joint Eversource/Metro North project that is happening all along the New Haven Line. Unfortunately, the City has no authority to stop them.”
King said, “According to Eversource, the trees, which were planted long ago, have grown into the wires, which creates a hazard for train travel. Eversource is required by state statute to remove any trees interfering with wires. When we learned of the work we advocated strongly for leaving any trees which could safely remain and obtained a commitment from Eversource that they would replant trees which grow to a lower height to avoid this ever having to happen again.”
Other State projects have recently upset Norwalkers. In February, Democratic Town Committee member Diane Keefe said ConnDOT was “denuding the entire perimeter of the Merritt Parkway.”
DTC member Sheri McCready Brown told her the project had “been going on for a long time” and it stemmed from a family being killed when trees fell on their car.
“There have been many trees that have fallen on the Merritt Parkway, not only on cars, but also across the parkway and blocking all the lanes,” Mayor Harry Rilling said. The road dates to the 30s, the trees are even older and “they started to become weak and started to fall more frequently with all the storms we’ve been having. It’s also my understanding now that many of the trees that have been cut down will be replaced with newer trees.”
According to the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation, ConnDOT increased the clear zone along the travel lanes from 18 feet to 30 feet, the national standard.
In another tree cutting incident a year ago, Norwalkers were upset when ConnDOT cut down old-growth oak trees along Riverside Avenue as part of a Norwalk River Valley Trail expansion.
The trees were on “property that is either owned by the State or where the State has a right of way… therefore, the State was the decision maker about what trees were to be removed for the building of the trail,” Tree Warden Chris Torre said at the time.
King told Snedaker on Friday that while the City couldn’t stop the destruction, it’s working toward increasing Norwalk’s greenery.
“We know that a healthy and robust tree canopy is essential to healthy, active and beautiful neighborhoods,” King wrote. “The mayor and council have recently committed close to $1,000,000 over the next two years to expanding and growing the City’s tree canopy, including $150,000 in this year’s capital budget.”