Residents Protest Metro North’s Tree Clearing in Riverside

On Tuesday morning about a dozen residents gathered in the cold to protest Metro-North’s clear cutting of mature trees in their right of way to the north of tracks near Riverside School.

Through the chain link fence that separates the railroad’s right of way from Riverside School property, a thicket of trees had been reduced to stumps.

As workers fed branches into a noisy wood chipper, the protesters held up signs saying ‘Save Our Trees,’ and, ‘Metro North, Why?’

Residents protested against Metro-North’s clear cutting along the railroad’s right of way, adjacent to Riverside School. Dec 15, 2020 Photo: Leslie Yager
Clear cutting by Metro North on the north side of the tracks adjacent to Riverside School. Photo: Leslie Yager

“What we’re here for is because Metro North is cutting the trees, but not selectively,” said Lucy Guillet. “It’s probably easier for them to do it that way. But it’s a noise issue, and there’s animals that live in there too.”

“We’re watching,” she continued, summarizing her message to Metro North.

Jane Owen Brash, whose protest sign said, “Metro North, We Love out Town – Save Our Trees. Don’t Cut Them Down,’ added that residents were fired up.

“This is really bad for the environment, really bad for wildlife, and increases noise levels – to say nothing of just how horrible it looks,” she said as she glanced through the chain link fence at a vast expanse of tree stumps.

Clear cutting in the Metro North right of way north of the tracks, up to the chain link fence at Riverside School. Dec 15, 2020 Photo: Leslie Yager

“The crazy thing is they don’t have any money right now. So where are they finding the money for this?” Brash asked. “And now they’re going to be asking us for a bail out – after they do this to us? And we have to plant trees with our taxpayer money which will take years. Some of these trees are 100 years old.”

“They’re not even taking the tree stumps out,” Brash continued. “They’re saying a tree might fall on children also, but children aren’t playing here. It’s a parking lot.”

On Monday night the Riverside Association sent an email to members saying they recognized that Metro North had an obligation to protect its equipment and the safety of its customers, but felt the railroad could meet those objectives while still being “thoughtful stewards” of the land in their right of way.

On Dec 3, Metro North said it was their right to perform tree trimming in their right of way, and that trimming under and adjacent to the overhead lines is critical to preventing service disruptions, especially during storms.

Metro North also said the tree trimming in this area was long overdue. They noted over 300 trees blew down during Hurricane Isaias in August, and that the trees being removed are decayed, creating a risk of falling on the tracks or the catenary lines. (The railroad uses a catenary system of overhead wires that supply electricity to the railroad.)

On Dec 4 the Greenwich Tree Warden Dr. Greg Kramer explained the tree work in Riverside had two parts, and that the first part was in the area in the right of way by Riverside School. He said it was his understanding that the tree removal would extend as far as the last parking spot at Riverside School, and, further to the west tree – in the approach to the Riverside train station – cutting would be selective.

On Tuesday afternoon, Dr. Kramer replied to a request for comment in an email, saying he’d met with Metro North staff earlier in the morning for around 2 ½ hours and reviewed the Riverside site.  

“We have agreed to keep some trees that pose no threat to either the railroad or school in the event of trees falling,” he said. “Thus far about 22 tree were agreed to remain, as well as some shrubbier plants along the fence line.”

He added that Metro North has not committed to doing any planting at this point.

“However,” he continued, “A Town initiated planting plan and  planting will be done for the Board of Education property that will provide screening.”

Dr. Kramer said he did not yet have a timeline on planting, and plantings would be contingent on the plant availability and weather conditions.

First Selectman Camillo did not respond to a request for comment in time publication, but the Riverside Association email Monday night included correspondence from Camillo who saying he had secured the railroad’s word they would clean up after themselves.

He said he’d asked if the trees not threatening the tracks, wires, and playground could be left standing, and was told said they would make every effort to do that.

He also said the Greenwich Tree Conservancy pledged to help with tree plantings on Town property to provide screening and that Schools Superintendent Dr. Toni Jones was consulted and was amenable to planting trees for screening along the border fence.

See also:

Update on the Metro North Tree Trimming in Riverside

Dec 4, 2020

Riverside Neighbors Wary of “Zealous” Tree Cutting by Metro North Railroad

Nov 29, 2020