Wondering Why the Pine Trees at Ham Ave School Previously Spared by Tree Warden Were Cut Down?

Foreground are stumps from the mature pine trees removed in October. Background are a half dozen ornamental Cherry trees planted by Pecora Brothers who built a multi-unit residential development next door. Photo: Leslie Yager

A row of stumps closer to Ham Ave, where more diseased pine trees were removed in October. Photo: Leslie Yager

Last April as the Pecoras finished building their multi-family residential housing development which was approved under the state’s affordable housing statute 8-30g behind the Two Door the topic of trees on school property made headlines.

The 10 unit development is adjacent to Hamilton Avenue School property and the developers asked if the town would cut down several mature Pine trees on Hamilton Avenue property, and offered to replace them at their own expense with a row of 10 Armstrong Maple Trees.

After a public hearing, the deputy tree warden, Steve Gospodinoff, deemed the Pine trees healthy and issued a decision that would spare them.

Yet, a couple weeks ago Chickahominy residents were perplexed that those same mature Pine trees were cut down without notice.

Reached for comment, Deputy Tree Warden Mr. Gospodinoff explained that while the trees were healthy last April, as the temps warmed up, and the situation changed.

“When it got a little warmer in the spring, the Black Pines got Diplodia tip blight,” he explained. “I saw that, an then one died. It browned out completely. Then the other one got it, browned out and died.”

Gospodinoff said he got flack from people who weren’t aware the trees had become diseased.

Diplodia tip blight, previously known as Sphaeropsis tip blight, is a common fungal disease of stressed conifers, especially pines with needles in bunches of 2’s and 3’s.  The fungus kills current year shoots and sometimes branches, and can disfigure or even kill them under severe conditions.

In place of the Pine Trees, the Pecoras planted a half dozen ornamental Cherry trees.

The Pecoras also planted a row of Arbor Vitae to replace the ones cut down a year ago.

Newly planted arbor vitae along the playground at Hamilton Avenue School. October, 2019 Photo: Leslie Yager

Newly planted Arbor Vitae along the playground at Hamilton Avenue School. October, 2019 Photo: Leslie Yager

Newly planted arbor vitae along the playground at Hamilton Avenue School. October, 2019 Photo: Leslie Yager

Newly planted arbor vitae along the playground at Hamilton Avenue School. October, 2019 Photo: Leslie Yager

Back by the playground, Gospodinoff said the Arbor Vitae that he had removed last year have been replaced with 39 new Arbor Vitae.

“It looks great. It’s an all around L-shape,” Gospodinoff said. “And the Pecoras paid for the replacements.”


Rows of Linden Trees along the Hamilton Avenue School field and playground were posted for removal in June 2019 to make possible the school field improvements, but the tree warden ruled in favor of keeping them. June 2019 Photo: Leslie Yager

To avoid any confusion, the mature Linden trees that straddle the sidewalk along the Hamilton Ave School field and provide habitat and  shade, are still in place.

Though there are no plans to cut them down, they had been posted for removal last June to make way for improvements to the playing field.

In July there was a well attended public hearing where residents vigorously defended the Linden trees.

At the hearing, Greenwich Schools facilities director Dan Watson said that to bring the field back to a more level condition required bringing in the fill, which would cover up the base of the trees. That, he said, suffocate the trees. “We always anticipated the replacement of the trees,” he added.

Mr. Gospodinoff ruled in July that the Linden trees were not to be touched.

“It is my decision NOT to remove the nineteen (19) posted trees. However, if the field renovations plans are submitted showing protection of trees, and reviewed by the Department of Parks and Recreation – Tree Department, it is my decision that the project can move forward,” he said in a statement in July.