Major Public-Private Partnership in the Works to Plant 500 Trees on Rte 1 in Greenwich

With luck by October crews will be busy digging holes and planting the first of 500 new trees planned along Route 1. The idea for the trees – both native species and ornamental – is to create a tree lined boulevard from Port Chester and Stamford.

JoAnn Messina, director of the Tree Conservancy said the number of different departments and agencies involved is numerous.

On Thursday elected officials, town employees and volunteers gathered along busy Route 1 in Old Greenwich to mark the last leg of the effort to pick sites for new trees.

Tree Operations Manager Joe Kay, DPW communications specialist Renee Wallace, P&Z planner Jackie Pruitt, DPW deputy commissioner Jim Michel, P&Z director Katie DeLuca, tree warden Dr. Greg Kramer, Greenwich Tree Conservancy executive director JoAnn Messina, Greenwich First Selectman Fred Camillo, State Rep Steve Meskers (D-150). May 26, 2022. Photo: Leslie Yager

Messina said 2-1/2 years earlier the Planning & Zoning commission chair Margarita Alban and town planner Katie DeLuca approached the Tree Conservancy, Conservation Commission, Parks & Rec, and Architectural Review Committee about the idea of greening the Rte 1 corridor. ARC chair Richard Hein became the chair of the Greenscape Committee.

Many recall an early project initiated by the Greenscape Committee involved planting thousands of crocuses in the island along Rte 1 at the foot of Stanwich Rd.

As for the the vision of a tree-lined boulevard, Messina said so far sites have been mapped out for 300 trees.

Procedure-wise, she said there were parallel processes, one involving the state and one involving the town.

At the same time as coordinating with the BET Budget Committee, Board of Selectmen and ultimately the RTM, the group is working with the Connecticut Dept of Transportation, since Rte 1 is a state road.

Greenwich First Selectman Fred Camillo, P&Z Commission Chair Margarita Alban, former State Rep Livvy Floren, who is a member of the Tree Conservancy advisory board. May 26, 2022 Photo: Leslie Yager

Sites for the trees will be coordinated with Greenwich’s Dept of Public Works.

Deputy DPW commissioner Jim Michel said locations would factor in sight lines, the ability to build ADA accessible sidewalks, and considerations of snowplows that might potentially damage trees.

The Tree Conservancy will be gifting both the trees and the planting along Rte 1, which it is state property, while typically, on town property, they gift the planting, and the Town of Greenwich purchases the trees.

Messina said the tree planting effort was significant given recent loss of trees in many parts of town.

“It’s very not smart, let’s put it that way, for Eversource and Metro-North – the number of trees they’re taking down, especially at a time we know…that trees are the best solution for our climate issues,” she said.

“We have continued to advocate against clear cutting, and what’s been done around places like Riverside School. And at the same time we’re trying to plant on town property to eliminate that buffering issue.”

Town planner Katie DeLuca in front of a map with locations for trees to be planted along Route 1 in Greenwich.

Town planner Katie DeLuca referred to the tree planting effort as a boots-on-the-ground project.

“It speaks to Fred’s leadership, which was about public-private partnerships, and I think this is a stellar example of that,” she said.

“It’s not easy when you get Dept of Transportation involved. You need encroachment permits and all types of things. But this is going to be really beautiful,” Camillo said, likening the vision of the project to the tree-lined Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn.

“The state moves in mysterious ways,” said State Rep Steve Meskers. “But I tend to try to bring a bulldozer to the equation to help move that forward. Every once in a while they need an extra nudge. You can count on my support.”

Meskers congratulated Messina on having won several grants from the state for beautification of the town.

Messina said the GTC was awarded $37,000 from the CT Urban Forest Council to plant in the town’s environmentally challenged areas of Byram, Chickahominy and Pemberwick.

Tree Warden Dr. Greg Kramer said creating a greenway will make a world of difference.

Of the time spent flagging sites to locate trees, he said, “We were out there in wind, snow and cold, and enjoyed each other’s company. Now we’re at the last leg of the project and getting trees in the ground.”

The new trees will be mostly native species, but there will also be some ornamental trees.

After the trees are planted, the town will maintain them, although the Tree Conservancy and resident volunteers will assist in watering, which is critical in the initial years.

P&Z Director Katie DeLuca and Greenwich First Selectman Fred Camillo. May 26, 2022 Photo: Leslie Yager
Greenwich Tree Warden Greg Kramer and Greenwich Tree Conservancy director JoAnn Messina. May 26, 2022 Photo: Leslie Yager