Tall and majestic, but without enough roots to anchor them firmly in the earth, Prospect Street’s great oaks are coming down.
Early next week the town plans to remove century-old trees that loom over the sidewalk along the library property and Prospector Theater site.
The seven red oaks “represent an immediate and unacceptable risk to the public walking on our sidewalks as well as those driving on Prospect or Main Street,” Tree Warden John Pinchbeck said in a letter sent to the first selectman’s office Monday.
First Selectman Rudy Marconi agreed with Mr. Pinchbeck’s assessment: The big oaks have to be taken down.
“Over the last couple of years, we’ve had two trees that have fallen in good weather conditions — not due to severe weather — that exhibited absolutely no root structure whatsoever. They have no roots,” Mr. Marconi said.
“Rather than wait for strike three, we would rather be proactive and remove them now.”
The need for the decision became clear when another of the trees in the area fell recently into the library’s construction project.
“The structural integrity of the new $20-million library will also be at risk,” Mr. Pinchbeck said.
The tree fell on a portion of the library that had already been demolished, and no one on the work site or on Prospect Street was injured, Mr. Pinchbeck said
The previous fall was a couple of years ago and down the street, with the tree landing on a Yankee Ridge building near Dimitri’s. The building was not damaged, but the tree “just missed a car heading down Prospect Street,” Mr. Pinchbeck said. “We were very lucky.”
Mr. Pinchbeck described the problem. “These trees were planted many years ago in small openings in the sidewalk. Since then they have grown out into the street, where passing trucks and cars have made contact with the base of the trees, weakening their structure and allowing insects to invade the trees.”
Each of the trees that fell recently had “a very limited root structure,” and they were unstable as a result, Mr. Pinchbeck said.
“We believe that all of the remaining trees are in a similar state. Therefore, these aged and weakened trees will be removed commencing on March 5th,” he said.
“We expect the work to take two days (weather permitting). During this time Prospect Street will be closed to through traffic from the Bailey Avenue intersection up to Main Street.
“We regret any inconvenience this may cause,” he said. “However, this will allow the work to progress at a much more rapid pace.”
Taking the trees down will cost about $5,000, according to Mr. Marconi.
“We would like to plant new trees; however, the feeling is they should be on the inside of the stone wall, and permission from the library would be necessary to do so,” Mr. Marconi said.
Mr. Pinchbeck is hopeful
“We’re hoping to get them behind the stone wall, if there’s enough space between the library and stone wall. That’s up to the library,” he said. “So we’d have to choose trees that are a little bit smaller maybe.”
Mr. Pinchbeck said he isn’t as worried by the big trees on Main Street in front of the library.
“The Main Street trees are more stable because they have more space for the roots to grow,” he said. “They’re not just stuck between a sidewalk and the street.”