Binney Park Tree Removal: An Alternative

Achieving what we want while preserving what we have and need.

I made changes to this page to reflect what I said at the Tree Hearing today. I italicized everything that is new or changed. I talked for a while, so this page is pretty long (sorry.)

The Binney Park Master Plan (BPMP) proposes planting new trees in the southern part of the park. We love trees and Binney Park could use more. The problem is that neither BPMP nor its current implementation plan recognize that the existing trees’ flowers, shade, habitat, and mass provide a lot of value to our community.

  • The plan is to rip out twenty of our existing trees. BPMP would replace some of these trees with young, short, skinny trees that won’t mature for many years, and it would leave two areas (Area A and Area C, described below) without any trees at all.

  • Our alternative is to plant 28 of BPMP’s proposed trees this spring and plant the remaining trees (BPMP calls for seven more) when the existing trees die. The goal is to implement and complete BPMP proposed tree planting while keeping our valuable mature trees as long as we can.

The goal of beautiful, large, shady trees will be achieved in roughly the same time frame. We can plant most of BPMP’s proposed trees WITHOUT REMOVING A SINGLE TREE.

I am not a huge fan of crabapples, and I wasn’t planning on objecting until I heard how many were being cut down. I went to the park, and I saw that this is a portion of the trees in that section, and a lot of them looked pretty good to me.

We need reasons to remove trees: a tree is an investment of money and time and that it pays off aesthetically and environmentally every day. You don’t throw away an asset because something new comes along, and you think long and hard about divesting if there is a huge exit fee. In this case, the exit fee is 100%.

The argument to cut down the trees is:

  • the trees have no little value

  • they are standing in the way of a new plan,

  • and that this plan is better.

I argue that these trees are valuable, they are not standing in the way of new plan, and that this new plan not necessarily better: it has problems that no one is talking about.

Crabapples do have issues: their growth inconsistent and they lose their leaves very early. You can see this all over town.

But this is the nature of crabapples. Are we going to cut down every crabapple in town? If they are so awful, why is the town continuing to plant them? They want to cut down 16 crabapples, about as many as were just planted in the OG train station parking lot. The park’s growing conditions aren’t perfect, but the biggest one is over 25’ tall and hardly on deaths door. They shouldn’t all be ripped out because some are underperforming.

The conditions may get worse in the near term, but the argument that “they’re going to die so we may as well kill them now” is drastic and shortsighted

These are the only flowering trees in this section of the park (except for a condemned dogwood). They are not perfect: their growth inconsistent and they lose their leaves very early, but to quote Bruce Spaman, “(These trees) look great in Spring.” (Greenwich Free Press, February 13, 2019)

Tree Planting Plots

These illustrations, based on BPMP, show existing and proposed trees, as well as the condemned trees, in the southern portion of Binney Park. The last illustration, “Seven More Trees,” shows that all of the trees proposed by BPMP will be planted.

You can see all the drawings by clicking the left and right arrows or by clicking on the thumbnail.


The Condemned Trees Are Not Blocking the New Plan

80% of the planned new trees can be planted without removing any of our existing trees.

The red and red rimmed circles are the condemned trees. The dark green circles represent the other existing trees. The blue circles are new trees from the plan planted exactly in their position.

There are 28 blue circles on this diagram. BPMP calls for a total of 35 trees to be planted, which means that they are cutting down 18 (16 crabapples, one sugar maple, and one dogwood) trees to plant 7 “better” trees. If we are a little flexible about the exact planting positions, we could get a few more planted in the southeast section.


Tree Value by Area


All the condemned crabapples and the one sugar maple near Wesskum Wood Road fall into the four areas marked in the fourth tree plot above. There are three more trees that are marked and we will comment on them later (before the tree hearing). Areas A, B, and C are not impervious to flooding, but all you need is to look at the condemned trees to know that these areas are healthier than Area D. Six of the condemned trees will not be replaced (Area A and Area C). The other trees will be replace with saplings.

Area A

The four trees in Area A (three crabapples and a sugar maple) are large, attractive, healthy trees between Wesskum Wood Road and the tennis courts. Not only will we lose their habitat, shade, and flowers, but we will also be forced to look at the chain link fence that they screen.

These Trees Will Not Be Replaced

BPMP calls for a “Native” Garden to cover the entire area between the road and the fence. Aside from highlighting the fence, this garden would create an maintenance nightmare that will be an eyesore for years. Click here to see the page I created to outline the problems with this proposal (spoiler alert - the page’s subtitle is “Please Don’t Do This”)


Area B

The green shapes show the current size of the trees. The blue ovals are the size of the replacement trees. It will take several years before they grow to be as large as the condemned trees are right now.

These four mature flowering crabapples will be replaced with “better” trees (BPMP calls for swamp oaks). The volume of the condemned crabapples is about 400 cubic yards. The volume of the three new trees is about 15 cubic yards. It will take years before the new trees will have the mass that we have right now.

BPMP does comment that the crabapples “conflict with the park’s character,” but it never defines this character and it calls for six other similar trees to be planted a few yards away, and its opinion on some trees character is not consistent with the 2009 Historic Landscape Report (as explained in Area C).


Area C

This photo is from the 2009 Historic Landscape Report. The ornamental tree on the left is one of the Area C trees that are marked for removal.

BPMP would remove the two crabapples that flank the restroom. They will not be replaced. These trees are quite attractive and were praised in the 2009 Historic Landscape Report (which was produced by the same firm that created BPMP) as being part of the “collection of plant materials (which) add significantly to the historic character.”

The 2015 BPMP claims that these trees “conflict with the park’s character.” The inconsistency is not explained.


Area D

This is the area where flooding is hurting the trees. It would be better if flood tolerant trees had been planted here, but they weren’t. We have invested several years in these trees, and even though they should be better, they provide the only shade in the area. They aren’t perfect, but it will be years before new trees can replace their shade.

Just because something is going to die eventually doesn’t mean we should kill it. We should be trying to save as many of these trees as possible while planting new trees that will outlive (and eventually out-shade) the trees we have now.

In Conclusion:

  • These trees are valuable assets that will only be partially replaced over the many years of growth

  • They are not standing in the way of implementing the new plan

  • The new plan has problems that are not being discussed