Though New Canaan’s tree warden hasn’t yet made a formal decision, and opinions range on what landscaping is best long-term for the front lawn of the renovated and expanded Town Hall, the consensus among those attending a public hearing Tuesday night regarding the Norway maple tree there—including a town woman who originally had objected to the tree’s removal—was to take it down.
Tree Warden Bruce Pauley’s idea of removing the Norway maple and planting a sugar maple on either side of the main path up to Town Hall appeals to Dave Hunt, a town resident for nearly 40 years and one of more than 50 people who attended the hearing.
Hunt said his first reaction on hearing that the Norway maple was slated for removal was that he hates to lose a big old tree, “same as in my yard.”
“But then I think about [how] we have this quintessential town, and we saved the façade of Town Hall—we really did all the right things, in my mind, to keep that perfect little New England community—and the idea of putting in quintessential New England trees like two sugar maples just seems to fit that to a tee,” Hunt said at the hearing, held in the Training Room at the New Canaan Police Department. “Especially given what I am hearing tonight about the issues with this tree.”
Those issues—outlined mostly by New Canaan’s Andrea Sandor, whose objection to Pauley’s posting had prompted the hearing—include that the tree is non-native, appears to be brittle and breaking and has suffered from soil compaction.
“The tree has to be taken down—it is hazardous,” Sandor said, citing the “structural opinion” of a master arborist she had retained.
Pauley agreed that the tree is in bad shape (“By the very nature of being a Norway maple in a mature state, it is prone to breakage,” he said), adding that it’s not possible to extend this particular tree’s life while preserving its “dignity.”
The tree emerged point of contention last month immediately following Sandor’s objection to the tree being tagged by Pauley, who then backed away from his plan to remove it. Several residents, including many of those in attendance on Tuesday night, publicly supported the tree warden after he outlined his point of view in an article he published on NewCanaanite.com. With that wide community support, Pauley re-posted the Norway maple for removal.
At the hearing, Sandor reviewed: her own background in advocating for trees in New Canaan; the opinions of consultant arborists she had retained; the town’s spending on tree removal and replacement; environmental benefits (especially regarding carbon dioxide) of trees; and state laws regarding tree removal.
Town resident Bob Stafford noted that, in order for New Canaan under state law to proceed with removing the Norway maple, it must be re-posted again and either Pauley must say it’s a safety hazard or someone else must formally propose the sugar maple plan. (Town resident Beth Jones said she’d be “more than willing” to do the latter.)
Responding to Sandor’s claim that the tree was not sufficiently protected during construction at Town Hall, Michael Avgerinos, chairman of the volunteer committee that helped oversee the renovation there, said he followed the progress of the work on site daily “and I assure you that the general contractor took all the precautions” needed to protect the Norway maple.
Though some digging “several feet away” had to be done, it did not interfere with the tree, Avgerinos said.
Pauley agreed and said the soil in front of Town Hall has been impacted by foot traffic, and that the situation can be addressed in planting new trees by loosening the soil and putting in additives.
“It’s not a big problem to overcome with a new tree,” Pauley said. “It’s a bigger problem with an existing tree, when the soil becomes compacted with roots and denying the roots oxygen. But planting a new tree, you get a fresh start.”
Town resident and local landscape architect Keith Simpson—a member of the New Canaan Beautification League, which has offered to fund a landscaping plan for Town Hall—said he’s learned a great deal about trees from Pauley and requested that, should the Norway maple come down, officials pause prior to planting anything new.