Proposed Tree Ordinance for New Canaan Should Be Adopted

By G. Warfield "Skip" Hobbs

Tree Warden Bruce Pauley, in consultation with the Tree Committee and the Ordinance Committee of the Town Council, has to the Town Council. Due to out-of-state travel the week of November 14th, I am not able to testify in support of the ordinance before the Town Council on November 16th. Hence, this letter shall serve as my entreaty to urge the Town Council to approve a Tree Ordinance. 

The October 29th freak snowstorm and Tropical Storm Irene in September demonstrated once again the vulnerability of our community to the devastation caused by a major storm. Trees were down everywhere knocking out power for far too many homes in New Canaan; roads were blocked; and falling trees and downed electric lines created a very serious threat to public safety. The cost of the storm damage to the Town and its residents has been significant.

Unfortunately, this situation is not going to get any better. Many of the iconic New England hardwood trees that line our roads are approaching the end of their natural life spans. Rot is common in the old maples and pests are now killing off ash trees and hemlocks. Invasive vines are strangling many trees and the added weight poses further danger of falling limbs and trunks. Climate change is happening and we can expect more frequent and intense storms.

The proposed New Canaan Tree Board would be charged with preparing an inventory of Town owned trees, identifying potential hazards and developing a tree management plan. Unhealthy trees should be removed and replaced with new trees. In addition to the town rights of way, the Tree Board should also have jurisdiction over the trees in our parks, where proper public forest management is long overdue.

This proposal should not be viewed as another unnecessary “bureaucratic intrusion of government." The Tree Ordinance should be unanimously adopted by the Town Council in the interest of public health and safety, to reduce future storm damage, to maintain the rural beauty (and real estate values) of our community and as a step to reduce the town’s potential liability from storm tree damage in the future.

G. Warfield "Skip" Hobbs is an outspoken advocate for conservation and open space in New Canaan. He is currently one of three members of the New Canaan Tree Committee, appointed by the First Selectman, and is a trustee of the New Canaan Nature Center. Hobbs holds a BS Degree in Geology from Yale College and a MS Degree in Petroleum Geology from the Royal School of Mines, Imperial College London. He heads Ammonite Resources Company, an international petroleum, mining, and geothermal geotechnical consulting company that he founded in 1982. He is immediate Past President of the American Geosciences Institute, a federation of 50 geoscience societies representing over 250,000 earth science professionals and educators.

Hobbs also manages a family farm and forest property in Sheffield, MA.  He writes and lectures frequently on energy and conservation matters.


NewCanaanVoter November 09, 2011 at 11:01 PM
There are a lot of trees in this town are so far gone that it would be a waste of time to even break out the resistograph or tomographer. If I remember correctly saprophytic mushrooms are much more dense in nitrogen than the trees they grow in, meaning that for every pound of mushrooms growing out of a tree there are at least 5 lbs or so of that tree that are rotten or missing entirely. Just driving down 123 you can see all sorts of trees that are just waiting to fall onto cars and power lines.
Eloise November 10, 2011 at 02:37 PM
Thank you, Skip, for your great disquisition. It's too bad that so few of our town residents came to hear Bruce Pauley's presentation at Town Hall last night (11/9). Passing the tree ordinance should be a no-brainer. We need to get to work immediately on the hundreds of trees in town that threaten to cause catastrophe in the next big storm. And yes, J. Bauer, this work must take priority over sidewalk construction.
John Sheffield November 15, 2011 at 02:14 PM
There is much talk about supporting a tree ordinance but I have yet to find any proposed text of such ordinance. Devil's in the details, as we know. While such an ordinance may help give authority to a Tree Committee, I'm not sure it does much to compel the Town to act in accordance with such ordinance. Typically, most ordinances, though not all, outline what residents can or cannot do. Who would enforce the Town to act in compliance? Also, I would be very leery of future "ordinance-creep" in which this ordinance could be used to further infringe on property rights. A couple of examples of which I have seen elsewhere limit homeowners' rights and abilities to manage their own trees which are not in the right of way near roads or power lines. I will be interested to read, with a skeptical eye, the actual text of such a proposed ordinance. I do support the Town expending money on aggressively trimming, and we should be prepared to spend the $$.
John Sheffield December 05, 2011 at 09:31 PM
I understand the fine folks on the Town Council Ordinance Subcommittee have indeed drafted a good ordinance. I further understand my previous concern is addressed in the proposed ordinance (not because I raised it but rather it was their intent from the beginning not to impact private property rights). Watch for the text in the paper this week. I support the Town Council (and others above) in this effort. The actions will still cost money and therefore we will need to find a way to fund it.
S Tadik December 06, 2011 at 07:22 AM
J Bauer, tomorrow you have your last chance to tell the new Board of Selectmen you don't want them to sign off on a million dollar road/sidewalk contract. Don't accept the referendum mandate ploy; Putin would have been proud of the concealment tactics. Many more people would have voted to fix the roads first if they had known about Lakesidegate. We will see how bad Main St gets this winter due to the years of delay by Town Council and Public Works. Bring your friends and neighbors. Don't let this pet project break the bank.


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »