Update on the Metro North Tree Trimming in Riverside
Last week, an online petition about the felling and cutting of trees on the north side of the railroad tracks by the Riverside School near Drinkwater Bridge raised residents’ objection to Metro North’s extensive felling of trees.
The neighbors were disappointed that they had not been notified in advance that the trimming would take place.
Metro North says it is their right to have trees felled on their right of way, and cutting under and beside overhead lines is critical to preventing disruptions to operations, especially during storms.
Tree pruning on December 1st next to Riverside School in Metro North right of way. Photo: Leslie Yager
Metro North found that their right of way in this particular area is wider – roughly 75′-100 ‘- while their property is typically 25′-50’ from the outer runway.
Metro North also said that tree felling in this area was long overdue. They found that over 300 trees were cut down during Hurricane Isaias in August and that the trees that were being removed had fallen into disrepair, putting them at risk of falling on the tracks or overhead lines. (The railroad uses an overhead contact line system that provides power to the railroad.)
They also found that there are cases where trees fall into drainage ditches that can support them and cause flooding.
They also noted that it is not their policy to reach residents before trees are felled, although they do come forward before capital projects that pose a quality of life or noise issue.
In this instance, Metro North has liaised with both the arborist and the Riverside School, promising that their work would not affect drop-off or pick-up at the school.
While residents said they believed the trees were acting as noise barriers, Metro North said the trees being removed have no vegetation on top and therefore do not constitute a major sound barrier.
This week, as the pruning continued, contractors put debris through a wood chopper to take it away. In particular, the contractor has the task of removing trunks, limbs and branches and only leaving stumps, as these do not pose any danger.
Metro North also said they had no plans to shape the cleared area.
However, according to Metro North, if there were trees of historical importance – maybe a 100 or 200 year old tree that is still in good condition – they would consider working with a community and leaving them in place.
Greenwich Arborist Dr. Greg Kramer said Thursday that Metro-North’s tree pruning project in Riverside consists of two parts. The first part is the area in front of the Riverside School that the neighbors were worried about.
He said it was his understanding that the tree removal would begin through Drinkwater and extend to the last parking lot at Riverside School.
“They’ll cut everything from the street to the last parking lot as the trees are closer to the Riverside School parking lot,” he said.
The second area to trim to is, according to Dr. Kramer to the west, near the Riverside Train Station. He said he plans to work with Metro-North to selectively remove trees.
Dr. Kramer said he looks forward to walking this stretch with a Metro-North supervisor and arborist to discuss what to remove.
“There are some nice sassafras that I would like to keep. There are also some fine oaks and some elms that would be nice to keep, ”he said.
“I asked if we could focus on moving non-locals. There are some ailanthus out there, and they are the preferred host for the Spotted Lanternfly (an invasive insect native to parts of southern China, Taiwan, and Vietnam that has spread throughout the United States), and I have a feeling I would love to if Metro North would remove them, ”he said.
Also known as the Tree of Heaven, Smelly Sumac, Chinese Sumac, Lacquer Tree, and Smelly Tree, Ailanthus grows quickly and releases a strong, offensive odor, especially from its flowers.
Dr. Kramer said he hoped Metro-North might consider planting American Holly in the area along the Riverside School.
He said the American holly grows to around 30 feet and because of its conical shape, it isn’t a concern of branches falling.
He also said the American holly is “super hard” and can even grow in the sand dunes of Long Island. American native Holly also provides coverage for birds and offers screening.
“I hope they start thinking about replanting,” he said. “It would be nice if they would put something back into it. I think they would be a good gesture for everyone too. “
Greenwich Tree Conservancy director JoAnn Messina said Wednesday she was disappointed with the situation.
“The Greenwich Tree Conservancy is very concerned about the clean cut along the rail line next to the Riverside School,” she said in an email. “The advantages of these trees for school children are immense. We trust the arborist to check the number of trees that have fallen. And with the approval of the BOE, the AGB would be willing to plant trees on the school grounds to support the buffering of this area. “
Earlier this week, First Selectman Fred Camillo said that while the neat cut along the railroad tracks is under and under the jurisdiction of Metro North, “I, along with Tree Warden Dr. Kramer continues to discuss ways with them to mitigate the negative impact of the action and work with city officials and the tree protection agency to find out where we can plant trees and examine residents on the city’s property. “