The Sept 9 (Wednesday starting at 5:00pm) P&Z meeting agenda includes a request for public comment on proposed landscape improvements to the grassy island located at the foot of Stanwich Rd at East Putnam Avenue and Old Post Road #6 in Cos Cob.
The committee refers to the project as a “Chestnut Allée” or, alternately, as “Chestnut Island.”
The proposal comes from P&Z’s Greenscape Subcommittee, which includes members from various town departments and agencies – P&Z, Parks & Rec (tree warden), ARC, DPW, Conservation and GIS, as well as the Greenwich Tree Conservancy.
In addition to these members who were nominated by P&Z commission chair Margarita Alban and P&Z director Katie DeLuca, there are interested neighbors participating in the process.
Katie DeLuca, P&Z director, said the commission and subcommittee are eager for public feedback on the Chestnut Island, the first project of several.
She said Greenscapes was an outgrowth of the 2019 Plan of Conservation and Development, which includes a goal of beautifying the six-mile Post Road corridor.
She said the committee is devising a landscaping plan for the Post Rd to create beautiful places and foster a sense of place.
“The collaborative effort between Town departments, the public, and non-profit organization was exceptional,” DeLuca said.
Richard Hein, chair of the committee, agreed. Hein is an architect and landscape designer.
“We realized we’re all on the same page and want to help Greenwich be more beautiful and sustainable – a more green Greenwich,” Hein said in a phone interview with GFP this week.
Hein said at the beginning of the process the group envisioned a tree lined boulevard.
“We quickly realized it was not ever – and will not ever – be a tree lined boulevard,” he said. “It is a utilitarian 400 year-old road that runs through hill and dale.”
The group launched their look at the Post Road before the pandemic hit, but quickly pivoted to remote meetings, participating in a virtual tour through Google Earth of the entire six miles, starting at the traffic circle by Port Chester, “The Gateway,” and finishing in Old Greenwich, with an emphasis on the Exit 5 interchange.
“We went map-by-map, block-by-block, and analyzed the built-up condition, the green cover – or lack of – and any significant or historical or environmental features to preserve,” Hein recalled.
As the group studied the Rte 1, they agreed on a set of guiding principles (see page 1), that includes removing clutter and providing sustainable design. They are also looking at bus stops, sidewalks, benches and indigenous plantings. The committee will respect the existing treescape, manage it and take care of the urban forest, pruning trees or removing ones that won’t develop well over time.
The committee selected the island at the foot of Stanwich by Post Rd #6 as their first effort.
“It’s a beautiful huge area. It should be a gem,” Hein said, adding that he and John Conte, a landscape architect and licensed arborist, worked on the landscaping design.
Currently, there are about a half dozen Crabapple trees, two pine trees and some miscellaneous trees in the island.
“It’s not that pedestrian friendly,” Hein said. “The grass is not well maintained.”
Hein said the tree warden has looked at the existing trees in great detail, and some will be removed to make way for the Chestnut trees.
“We, as a committee, are submitting a construction document to the State for a permit to do pruning and replace some trees. Also (the document) will include the proposed new sidewalk and a potential location for new bus stop,” Hein said. “We propose to move it and improve it within the island, and provide a sidewalk to make it easily accessible.”
First Selectman Fred Camillo has been a champion of the Greenscape committee’s work.
“He validated the entire greenscape concept and gave Margarita Alban and Katie DeLuca his full, enthusiastic support,” Hein said. “He’s been highly supportive of making this a shining example of what the town can do with its resources, and involved and dedicated citizens.”
Alice Ruf, a Stanwich Rd resident, had approached Camillo about beautifying the island during Camillo’s candidacy. She is organizing neighbors to help fund the beautification.
Mr. Hein credited Greenwich resident John Eddy with crafting an agenda for the committee.
“It was more like a syllabus got a college class set up with assignments and homework and processes,” Hein said. “He was instrumental in the success of the committee – putting together a vision statement and guiding principles.”
Of all the projects the committee is looking at, the Chestnut Allée is unique in that the island is in the State Dept of Transportation right of way for Rte 1, and the group has to to submit an encroachment permit request so the Town can take over. Greenwich’s Dept of Public Works is handling the permit work.
The committee’s work to date can be found on the Planning & Zoning Website under “Greenscape Subcommittee” and also through this link: https://www.greenwichct.gov/DocumentCenter/Index/2188