Fate of Historic 82-Foot Oak Tree Uncertain After Major Branch Collapses on Route 106


The former location of the branch. Credit: Connor Markey

Heavy wind and rain brought down a massive branch belonging to one of New Canaan’s largest and most historic trees on Sunday, causing traffic delays and damaging several power lines.

The fallen branch on July 16, 2023. Jill Larsen photo

Department of Public Works officials have since removed the large branch from Route 106, though its remains can still be seen in the form of log piles next to Bristow Park’s main entrance. It’s still not yet clear whether or not the rest of the tree will be removed. 

Tiger Mann, head of DPW, said that the decision would come down to the state arborist and the town tree warden, both of whom he has already contacted.

“If they deem it a hazard, it can come down immediately,” Mann said. “If not, if they were going to remove it, then it would need to be posted for 10 days by state statute, but again, if it’s deemed a hazard tree, it can be removed for obvious reasons.”

Several crews work to repair the damage caused by the branch. Credit: Connor Markey

Located by the entrance to Bristow, the 82-foot-tall white oak has been recognized by Connecticut’s Notable Trees Committee. Its trunk has a circumference of 192 inches and its canopy is recorded to have a spread of 109 feet, although that number is likely significantly smaller now. While it is thought to be at least 300 years old, an exact estimate for the tree’s age has not yet been determined. It can be easily identified by the Bristow Bird Sanctuary sign hanging from its trunk.

Chris Schipper, chair of the New Canaan Conservation Commission, said it’s important to “do everything you can to save an old tree like that.”

“But at the same time, you’d have to take into account public safety,” he added.

Other members of the Conservation Commission have shown support for keeping the tree. For example, Commissioner John Fusek said in a text, “I hope we can convince the tree warden to try and save the remainder.”

As of Monday, traffic on Route 106 had returned to normal, and the tree still remains standing, albeit significantly smaller.

5 thoughts on “Fate of Historic 82-Foot Oak Tree Uncertain After Major Branch Collapses on Route 106

  1. This is the typical way in which otherwise healthy trees begin to expire. Their own mass and growth habit work against them. Wether the remaining tree is in imminent danger of breaking apart or not needs to be determined by the tree warden. In the long term, a large wound produced by the loss of a large section of the tree inevitably leads to decay, further compromising the tree’s strength. There is little that can be done to make the tree safer that won’t cause further issues. This was a beautiful white oak. How sad.

    • Bruce, Sage advice.nEven the mightiest oaks fail. Let’s see what the arborists advise. In any event, we’ll make a point to collect some acorns when they drop and start a nursery of offspring.

  2. It didn’t help that a metal sign was shoved into it for Bristow Sanctuary. Respect the trees and they will respect you in return.

    • Hi Ellen, Thanks for noticing the Bird Sanctuary sign. We think the metal sign stanchion was placed back in the 1940’s. The current sign arrived in 1987 when the park was renamed for Helen and Alice Bristow – two local sisters long dedicated to birding and nature in New Canaan. The arborists do not think the stanchion was the source of limb weakness. For more on the history of our New Canaan Bird Sanctuary and Wildwood Preserve visit http://www.BristowPark.com

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