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Greenwich Makes Trees a Priority Before Winter

GREENWICH, Conn. – With the not-so-distant memories of Hurricane Irene and the freak October snowstorm still on the minds of residents, tree warden Bruce Spaman says the town is preparing to meet the demands of winter storms to come.

“There are always variations with different storms, but we have a very aggressive ongoing program of looking for troublemaker trees,” said Spaman. “The reality is, you can’t predict when a healthy tree, with no obvious defects, is going to fail.”

The Parks and Trees Division is in charge of the care and maintenance of all trees on public property and town roadsides. From one storm to the next, mobilization is getting better. With 60 people in the trees and parks divisions, for the next big storm, Spaman says, “It’s all hands on deck.”

“We’re working with Connecticut Light & Power to put crews together of policemen for flagging, highway division and CL&P crews to de-energize lines,” he said. The real key is protocol, such as an electrical hazard awareness program for tree workers. “If there’s wires under a tree you can’t touch it. Everyone has the training, and we’re ready. It’s really up to Mother Nature to do what she’s going to do.”

The town looks for signs that trees are predisposed to failure with regular hazard tree surveys, Spaman said. During these surveys, tree division crews drive on every road in town, finding trees and prioritizing what needs to be trimmed or taken down. “The more you look, the more problems you find,” said Spaman. Crews look for trees with poor architecture, diseased or dead branches, those leaning toward the street, construction damage, cavities and root systems.

Still, Spaman reminds everyone that trees are unpredictable. “With Irene, we had a lot of rain, and sometimes the failure is at the soil. If you have wet soil, high winds, and a tall tree, then it’s going to fall,” he said.

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