Letter: Norwalk needs Oak Hills’ trees

By Bill Wrenn

Friends of Oak Hills Park

NORWALK, Conn. – The Oak Hills Park Authority is still considering a driving range plan that would wipe out eight acres of mature trees in Norwalk’s second largest park.

This plan is wrong for the golf course, wrong for the environment and wrong for the taxpaying residents of Norwalk.

As we suffer through this severe heat wave, we should be thankful for our trees and their ability to cool our air and filter out pollutants.

Just take a walk on the nature trails at Oak Hills.  On these wooded trails it is at least 10 degrees cooler in summer than on a treeless fairway.  In addition, these trees provide natural air conditioning for the entire area, which makes the park, golf course and nearby areas feel a little cooler than if the trees were not there.

The air at Oak Hills and in surrounding areas is also cleaner thanks to these trees.  A single oak tree removes between 120 and 240 pounds every year of the small particles and gases of air pollution.  

So the Oak Hills trees that could be cut down for a driving range are absorbing 42 tons of CO2 and putting out 28 tons of oxygen every year.  These mature trees absorb 10 to 20 times more pollutants than replacement saplings, like those proposed in the OHPA’s Request for Proposal.

These publicly owned trees at Oak Hills also have economic value, particularly in a densely populated city like Norwalk. Thanks to their beneficial effect on public health and other factors, a canopy of trees is worth a lot of money. How much?  Up to $50,000 per acre, according to the Association of Tree and Landscape appraisers.

It is time for the Oak Hills Authority to reject any driving range plan that requires destroying the nature trails and these trees. One bidder submitted a proposal for a driving range that would save the Oak Hills Woodlands. We urge the OHPA to choose this alternative or nothing at all.

Don’t let Norwalk become hotter and more polluted every summer just for a driving range.

Bill Wrenn

Former Common Councilman

Friends of Oak Hills Park


22 responses to “Letter: Norwalk needs Oak Hills’ trees”

  1. M. Murray’s

    Has anyone found out how many different people use thiose trails?

  2. Suzanne

    Has anyone found out just how much money a driving range will generate? How much it will cost to develop at this decidedly unfriendly site? How much the GOLF course is losing and why?

  3. Bill Wrenn

    The trees in the Oak Hills Woodlands would be worth saving even if not a single person walked there. They benefit everyone in Norwalk because they clean the air and have a cooling effect on the climate.

  4. Joe Espo

    This is the most specious an argument against the driving range as I have seen. The air around Oak Hills is cleaner because of a few trees??? What a crock!
    Here’s a solution for you. Count the number of trees to be felled, multiply by two and replace them with new plantings distributed all around the perimeter of the course. Now Oak Hills will be enveloped with even cleaner air. Meantime we solve the Oak Hills revenue problem and put the old trees to good use like making mulch for the new trees..or perhaps a few thousand 2×4’s for habitat for humanity, and a few thousand guitars to accompany tree huggers while they sing kumbaya and howl at the moon.

  5. EDR

    I respect Mr Wrenn’s opinion because he genuinely believes in what he says unlike some of his friends who take a stance for political expediency. That said I do not agree with his view about the so called woods. Anyway the RFP that was available on line had a requirement that any proposal needed to be as green as possible. Something about an Audubon designation. They conveniently leave that out of their arguments.

  6. Suzanne

    Specious or not, Mr. Wrenn’s information is correct and based on science. Smaller trees do not provide the same depth nor size of canopy as the larger trees do. Mr. Espo, you are so angry. I suggest a nice walk among the trees you so easily denigrate and, in your mind, fell. Perhaps being a “tree hugger” for a few minutes will give you some perspective about a resource that cannot be replaced in our lifetimes with an asset that could more easily be built elsewhere (and that is from one of your bidders on the project.) So, EDR, it is not Mr. Wrenn’s views but scientific views you are arguing with. Again, for an asset, presumably, as we have seen no numbers to show whether the addition of the driving range will solve the Oak Hills management and fiscal problems, that could be built elsewhere as suggested by one of your bidders.

  7. Dana

    Gotta say I have been walking these trails for 12 plus years and it is truly a home for many species of birds and animals. I again walked it on Saturday with a couple of women friends and it was the coolest place, not only in temperature but serenity, that Norwalk has to offer. It is a bit of an unknown amongst Norwalk residents who haven’t walked it yet. But all the people I have met that have personally walked the trails all agree it is definitely a GEM! The trailhead is located behind the restaurant. I always and I mean always find a parking space there (unlike Cranbury Park and Calf Pasture beach)on weekends.

  8. Juat Another Norwalker

    Please give evidence and estimates for the following: “these trees provide natural air conditioning for the entire area”

    No hypotheticals allowed. I recognize that trees in the aggregate aid in cooling, but if there were some real estimates of how much of an effect these particular trees have on the area, it would be good information to have so as to be able to understand the statistical relevancy of the argument. An estimate of how much this patch of trees helps in cooling the surrounding area within 100 yards, 500 yards and 1 mile from the location would be helpful.

  9. Busy Norwalk Mom

    My first thought when someone suggests a “walk through the woods of a golf course” is, what are you crazy?! Golf balls can come from all directions, and is a very dangerous place for someone “enjoying the serenity”. It is one thing to walk near or on a course during the off season but to say you do it during golfing season leads me to believe you all are nuts. I went to the newly renovated driving range on route 7 yesterday. It was full of people using the facility with people lined up waiting their turn. It wasn’t just seasoned golfers who used the facility but parents with children of all ranges, grandparents staying active and getting exercise and young adults fine tuning their skills. There were several golf pros watching and providing guidance and the cost was less then if I took my children to a movie (just the movie). I think the point is, Norwalk could use a driving range, not just for people who “golf” but for all ranges of individuals. It could be a place for families to go and spend some quality time together – being active.

  10. Suzanne

    The land needing preservation is not on the golf course but it is in Oak Hills Park, a facility that is supposed to be available for use to all the people of Norwalk. The walk is the last available area for non-golfers to enjoy the Park and, within or nearby, are extensive wetlands, a stream and a pond. These features attract a great deal of wildlife and, as mentioned elsewhere in the thread, keep the area very cool for enjoyment even on very hot days. In addition, the land is steep with ledge and the trees mature. It would be a crime to destroy this last remaining asset left to the people of Norwalk – and wildlife – to enjoy. A driving range could be placed elsewhere and the Park remain available to all.

  11. M Allen

    @Suzanne – where would you suggest as an alternate location if not next to the golf course itself? Someplace with no trees, I would guess. Taylor Farm? Trees are being used here the way Spotted Salamander Owls (or whatever endangered, migratory species) was used to stop Super 7.

    For all the rest, I’m not sure whether the driving range or recycling bins have caused more angst in Norwalk, but its such small potatoes considering all the real issues we should be concerned with.

  12. EveT

    @BusyNorwalkMom, the woods are in a steep ravine on the other side of the restaurant parking lot from the golf course. You’d have a much greater risk of being hit by a stray golf ball while having lunch on the restaurant’s outdoor deck, or standing in the restaurant parking lot, than walking on the nature trail in the woods.

    As for the “Audubon” designation, @EDR, you do know, don’t you, that the corporate-funded organization using the Audubon name to certify golf courses (Audubon International) has no relationship to the National Audubon Society? They managed to convince the USPTO that the public would not be confused by their use of the same name. See <>.

  13. EveT

    @MAllen, one of the two proposals submitted would locate the driving range near the cart barn on existing golf course acreage. One or two of the tees and greens would need to be reconfigured, but the 18-hole course would remain 18 holes and no woodlands would be destroyed.

  14. EveT

    @EDR sorry, the URL didn’t come through. On the Audubon International site under “becoming a sponsor” you can see the fees corporations pay to be named as sponsors of this bogus environmental organization. It is AudubonInternational dot org slash becoming-a-sponsor.

  15. Mea

    I am a resident in this area, the area is not conducive to building a driving range. Also, the OHPA is financially strapped so it is a bad decision. I also feel that this will really inconvenience my neighbors and myself with construction and rock blasting. Norwalk badly needs a community pool where residents can purchase a yearly pool pass like Waveny in New Canaan. Since the Y closed as did the Ascension beach club, there is no where for residents to swim. In addition, the area in question should be developed as a Nature preserve for the three schools in the area to utilize.

  16. And lest everyone forget that the OHPA can not PAY BACK SEVERAL SUBSTANCIAL OUTSTANDING loans already funded to them from the city/taxpayers of Norwalk.
    Because the “authority” cannot/willnot substanciate their claims that the driving range will pull them out from under the hundreds of thousands of dollars they owe back to the city with the installation of a driving range without providing a comprehensive marketing plan supported by real data.
    I would love a driving range, pro-environmentally situated of course, but if these yo-yo’s can’t manage what they were already given then OH does not get more money (or clean house and get qualified management in there to turn it around).

  17. Bagger Vance

    Leave it to liberals to find something else people like to attack and remove. Golf, 16 oz sodas, salt….it doesn’t matter. There is just a faction of society that lives and develops happiness from denying others their freedom.
    Having played 100s of rounds at Oaks, I can recall no more than 5 occasions where I ever saw anyone walking through the woods. Unless of course they were hiding and stalking which wouldn’t surprise me seeing some of the comments from the cook fringe here.
    Let’s build trails and paths at Cranbury park and leave Oaks to the golfers. Leave Oaks alone and be happy with what you have instead of trying to make life miserable for everyone else you don’t want to see happy. Thanks.

  18. Suzanne

    Playing golf 100s of times at Oak Hills Park, you would not see people walking through the woods. The area in question is located across the parking lot behind the restaurant well away from any of the established holes. Cranbury Park is a developed landscape – the acreage in question at Oak Hills PARK is completely natural and a completely different habitat. With trees and neighborhoods being torn down for development at a pretty high level in Norwalk, this remnant of natural habitat is rare and, thus, well worth preserving. Not to mention that the Charter defines the area as Oak Hills PARK with specified activities outside of golf that are supposed to be available to every Norwalk citizen. You golfers have plenty of freedom to play as much as you would like on a beautiful course that takes up the near entirety of the available land, again for the use of all Norwalkers, not just golfers. This small portion, a valuable habitat needed in an urban place, Norwalk, that keeps eating up what remains of its natural spaces, deserves to be protected.

  19. Mea

    How would you like it if someone told you that you will be forced to endure months of rock blasting, construction, drainage issues on the promise that a driving range would benefit a mismanaged golf course? Would you lie down and play dead while an “authority” was making decisions about your property that you just spent tens of thousands of dollars to upgrade? This has nothing to do with golf, trees, birds, and liberals. This has everything to do with corruption in government. It’s time to wake up and look around and ask what is Norwalk turning into? Will it be the next Detroit? The next Bridgeport? Do the people on the OHPA live in the area in question? What are their qualifications in managing an actual business? If the Oak Hills Park is supposed to be run like a business.

  20. EveT

    @Mea, you mention a community swimming pool. Did you know that when the city got funding to build Norwalk High, the public was promised access to the high school pool? What hours is that pool open to the public? None. Why? Nobody knows, or at least nobody admits knowing.

  21. EDR

    Have any of the opponents to the range actually ever read or reviewed the audited financial statements of Oak Hills? Would you even know what you are lookimg at? It is stunning all of the vitriol about mismanagement and yet no one has ever actually pointed to anything that was done wrong or what the problems actually were or what are the corrective actions that been taken by the management of the park. I suspect if you did your views would be entirely different . As a taxpayer I am pleased by all of the changes. The economy has affected everyone.

    of course opponents dislike everyone and everything about Norwalk so go ahead and bloviate! Be part of the solution and not part of the problem. Whining is such a negative thing.

    By the way, West Norwalk is heavily wooded and loaded with wildlife. These 7 acres are not the last remaining vestige of non developed land in the area.

  22. Suzanne

    EDR, the audited financial statements nor required monthly statements for the OHPA are not only not always forthcoming but, when released, very opaque about exactly where financials are going wrong. Accounting analysis has been done by those outside the OHPA circle and very few conclusions could be drawn due to the paucity of information. I live in West Norwalk and know the area very well: the reason this particular area is being fought for so hard is because of its diversity of habitat but also, its location – in a public park unavailable for use to anyone but golfers unless this last remnant is saved for the rest of Norwalk’s citizenry. It is not negative to pro-actively try to save something you believe is a precious resource. Have you been to the area? It’s perimeter just to the outside of the Golf Course property line is a neighborhood valued because it borders on a nature area – not five story high nets, a denuded flat surface and the consistent sound of thwacking from golfers supposedly perfecting their swings. The one issue that has remained consistent and seems to be the largest contributor to the golf course not making ends meet is the lower number of rounds being played at Oak Hills. This would be understandable if data showed that similar courses were having the same problem – at least in Fairfield County, they are not. So, one has to wonder why more marketing has not been aggressively pursued, for example, or why the restaurant is not being promoted more. And why, without presentation of financial reports at the monthly public meetings, the City of Norwalk and taxpayer’s money is having to make up the difference in fees that are, by City Charter, supposed to be supporting the golf course (in other words, golfers are supposed to be paying for the cost of golf in this Public Park since access by non-golfers is denied unless you count sledding, cross country skiing and snow shoeing in the winter months.) Prior to this OHPA, the management was very competent and kept to the agreed conditions of the Charter. The economic downturn was already happening and, yet, the financials, openly reported, were still just fine. This points to one thing, then, that is problematic for Oak Hills Park: the OHPA and mis-management. You may not like this conclusion but unless you have seen the financials and can communicate different information about exactly what is happening with Oak Hills and are privy to the meetings out of ear shot of the public, then, please, enlighten those who value the last remaining landscape available to all.

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