Greenwich Tree Conservancy Responds to Metro North Clear-Cutting in Riverside

Submitted by Cheryl Dunson, Greenwich Tree Conservancy President

The Greenwich Tree Conservancy shares the alarm of residents protesting the recent clear-cutting of trees along the railroad tracks bordering the Riverside School and reflected in the residents’ petition available online.

This is a continuation of clear-cutting that occurred along exits 3-4 and now to 5-6. This clear-cutting policy, reportedly to protect the
catenary poles and tracks from falling trees, has devastating effects on communities. These “safety” policies have created other issues by eliminating the existing benefits of these wooded corridors for possible risk.

The wooded Right of Way (ROW) area adjacent to the tracks provides many benefits including screening from the trains, noise reduction, air quality remediation, stormwater runoff protection, wildlife habitat, and a safety barrier. After the clear-cutting of ROWs in the Connecticut towns of Falls Village and Cornwall, a pesticide application program was used to maintain
“infrastructure safety”. Chemical pesticide extends the negative impacts to the Town and the environment and, for coastal communities in particular, to Long Island Sound.

The Greenwich Tree Conservancy is proud of our partnership with the Town to preserve and enhance Greenwich’s tree canopy. Since our founding in 2007, we have planted thousands of trees throughout town, including on all our public school grounds. While we deeply regret the reason for needing to plant more trees at Riverside School, we are happy to work in partnership with the Town to help mitigate on the school property. However, the municipality should not be the only ones shouldering the burden created by ConDOT – they too should be required to
mitigate along the right of way.

Greenwich depends upon the expertise of our Town Tree Warden Dr. Greg Kramer, supported by our First Selectman Camillo, to help protect the town from wanton clear-cutting. While our local officials are using their influence to call for judicious tree removal, the GTC will work with the Town to remediate as much as possible. A large portion of the rail lines in Connecticut are owned by the State, and should be managed appropriately. The State and UCONN have worked together to develop the Stormwise program, which is designed “to tackle the challenge of maintaining the aesthetic appeal of forested Connecticut byways while reducing the potential of tree-cause damage to our infrastructure during severe storms.” This valuable work could be applied to our railroad corridor.

It is sadly ironic that at a time when there is widespread acknowledgement of the importance of trees in combating the many ill effects of climate change, that ConDOT/Metro North are allowed to remove these valuable woodland assets with impunity. The Greenwich Tree Conservancy
urges Governor Lamont to send a clear message that trees and transportation can co-exist and direct ConDOT, Metro-North and DEEP to adopt Stormwise or similar refined approach for managing vegetation in our transportation and utility corridors. Put simply, indiscriminate clear-cutting is deforestation, not vegetation management and should not be labeled nor accepted as such! Successful vegetation management mitigates risk, while ensuring that our urban and edge forests are conserved, restored and made more resilient.

Cheryl Dunson