For the small crowd gathered outside Town Hall for a demonstration of the town’s latest green initiative, it wasn’t what they heard that was notable. It was what they didn’t hear.
During the entire official ribbon-cutting presentation Wednesday afternoon, a new eco-friendly mower was cutting the front lawn of Town Hall — and no one heard a sound.
The new addition to the town’s team is a robotic lawn mower called Farmer Joe that makes no noise and produces no direct emissions — unlike a traditional gas-powered mower.
Another bonus: instead of leaving a mess of clippings that need to be cleaned up, Farmer Joe creates fine clippings over the grass that conserve moisture and act as a natural fertilizer by building the soil and feeding the microbial communities there.
“This is a small but significant step in leading and signaling to our community what is really needed and expected from all of us,” said Eric Horn, from the company Greenow that supplied Farmer Joe. “This machine is out-performing human beings in really anything when it comes to mowing practices.”
Gratitude Grove at Montgomery Pinetum
The Greenwich Tree Conservancy has announced their planting of the Gratitude Grove at Montgomery Pinetum. A plaque has been installed which reads: “GRATITUDE GROVE in honor of frontline workers and local heroes during COVID-19 Pandemic dedicated 2021”.
On Tuesday Greenwich’s housing authority, recently rebranded “Greenwich Communities,” returned before the Greenwich Planning & Zoning commission with their application for Vinci Gardens, a 52-unit, all one-bedroom, senior and handicapped apartment building in Byram.
The jumbo apartment building would be located at the end of Vinci Drive where the housing authority already operates McKinney Terrace I (21 family apartments) and II, a 52-unit elderly building in the former Byram School, which is on the National Historic Register.
JoAnn Messina, director of the Greenwich Tree Conservancy, said the issue was one of balance of green space, size of building and impact on the neighborhood.
She noted that the tree conservancy was in receipt of a $37,000 grant from the State to plant trees in Byram.
“This is an area that needs green. We have heat island effect. We have flooding issues. We have issues that are getting worse in this area,” Messina said.
A marathon P&Z meeting on Tuesday started with the municipal Improvement and Site Plan application for two intersection projects on Greenwich Avenue: Arch St/Havemeyer and Grigg/Fawcett.
The applications are being ushered through the approval process by DPW deputy commissioner Jim Michel.
At the July 7 P&Z meeting, feedback to Mr. Michel was that the design was too “engineer-ie” and should honor the historic nature of the area, particularly the triangle in front of the historic post office (now home to RH). The entire Avenue is a Historic National Register District.
Since the last meeting, the Greenscape committee, led by architect and Architectural Review Committee chair Richard Hein and landscape architect and ARC vice chair John Conte, made changes to the design.
Do you have a tree on your property that you treasure? A tree is treasured for many reasons: it may be part of a special memory; it may have a special history or shape; it may be a particularly beautiful tree; or its size or age may be special. Nominate your treasured tree at https://wfagreenprod.wpengine.com/treasured-trees-nominations/
If your tree is selected, your tree will have a nameplate installed and you’ll be awarded a framed photograph of the nameplate installation ceremony at a special reception in the fall. Your tree will also be enrolled in the Greenwich Tree Conservancy’s roster of Treasured Trees.
The Greenwich Tree Conservancy (GTC) plants trees in partnership with the town and educates on the important role they play in our community’s overall health, but how do we protect trees? You may not be aware that we speak in support of tree health at both the local and state level.
Locally, as you have likely witnessed, many developers clearcut properties before beginning their work. The pace of this destructive practice appears to be increasing at the same time as stronger storms are creating more flooding. Entire lots are cleared of trees prior to seeking building permits to make it easier for new construction. There is no protection in place for our private trees.
Building applications that are non-conforming must come before the Planning and Zoning Commission. These applications often include extensive removal of trees and GTC advocates for a more respectful approach to development to better protect our tree canopy and the ecosystem services it provides our community. Throughout these discussions GTC and others supply well documented information on concerns including the resulting increase in erosion and flooding, the creation of heat-islands and other unanticipated outcomes that would negatively affect the neighborhood.
Should a resident or business want a tree removed within the public right-of-way (ROW), they submit a request to the Town Tree Warden. If the tree is determined to be healthy, and the applicant still wants it removed, the Tree Warden posts the tree for removal and if anyone objects within 10 days a tree hearing is scheduled. GTC often requests hearings to enable a closer look at the issues at hand. The tree warden listens to testimonies from all parties, including concerned residents, and makes a ruling within 3 days. Any ruling may be appealed to the Superior Court in Stamford.
At the state level we often encounter our primary electricity provider, Eversource. Eversource speaks about hardening their infrastructure, yet their practices appear to focus solely on removal and “enhanced” trimming of our trees and not on equipment upgrades or undergrounding of wires in municipal areas. In the past their pruning protocol had been to clear all tree material within 8 feet of transmission lines, causing a “V” in town trees.
More recently, Eversource has increased their tree trimming requesting a clearance of 10 feet along with a “fall zone”. This policy is currently being tested in several towns. To date these increased tree trimming policies have not been shown to create a failsafe electrical system and the great damage they cause to the health of town trees is well understood. For this reason, the GTC advocates at state Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) hearings to request that the benefits trees provide communities be considered when establishing utility company tree trimming guidelines. As town tree canopies are weakened by aggressive trimming the trees become more vulnerable to damage from strong storms. The GTC provides documented evidence and a voice of reason to PURA as they oversee our utility companies.
Additionally, we speak to the clear cutting by CT DOT along I-95 and the Metro North right-of-way that includes easements provided to Eversource. All three entities have removed sound buffers that are critical to adjacent neighborhoods, have decimated habitat for songbirds and pollinators, and left behind wide open areas for invasive plants to take over. Their management policy is to apply pesticides, in many cases directly adjacent to homes and schools with young children. This creates a vicious cycle which would not occur if a properly managed tree canopy had remained. Policies such as these has left GTC with a sense of responsibility to speak out and advocate at state agency hearings and directly to the Governor.
Currently in Connecticut there are very few regulations on private property trees. We continue to discuss how we might find a way to protect a portion of our private property trees, to maintain the critical water and soil systems we all depend upon. We assisted in the passage of a public tree ordinance and feel it is time to discuss some form of private tree protection. This can take one of many forms, permits to remove trees over a certain size or a percentage of coverage to remain. We should discuss canopy loss and canopy goals. It looks as if the time has come to broaden our understanding as a community and begin to take action. Please join us in discussion, advocacy or donation as we seek to preserve and protect our town tree canopy.
JoAnn Messina has been the Executive Director of the Greenwich Tree Conservancy for over 15 years and is currently a member of the P&Z Greenscape Task Force. Prior to that she chaired the First Selectman’s Parking and Traffic Committee, was a member of the Selectman’s Nominations Advisory Committee and was President of the LWVG.
At both Wednesday’s P&Z briefing and Thursday’s meeting, the main attraction was the proposed intersection improvements on Greenwich Avenue: Havemeyer/Arch and Fawcett/Grigg, though most comments focused on the former. The entire Avenue is a Historic National Register District.
First Selectman Fred Camillo, who has passionately advocated for the improvements, said that back in the 1990s there was an effort to do something similar on the Avenue. He noted that was prior to cell phones and the more recent influx of out-of-towners.
Camillo said the improvements were fully funded by a state grant and the effort had the support of Greenwich Police, Greenwich Fire Dept, Greenwich Communities, Commission on Aging, and the First Selectman’s Committee for People with Disabilities, as well as owners of local businesses and restaurants.
Thanks to Susan Schieffelin for creating the GTC’s first place arrangement at the Greenwich Horse Show’s Annual Floral Centerpiece Contest!
By Anne W. Semmes
On Sunday morning last the clouds did not hamper the 100th Greenwich Horse Show, returned to its handsome greenspace of fields and tree-lined pathways in the backcountry setting so kindly offered to the sponsoring Greenwich Riding and Trails Association (GRTA) by the Gerrish Milliken family for 37 years until the death of Phoebe Milliken in 2019 and subsequent sale of the Milliken property. Then came the Covid shut down in 2020, with in 2021 the need to move the Horse Show to a Bedford, NY location. But in 2022 the Greenwich Horse Show has returned to that Milliken setting off Bedford Road thanks to the generosity of the new owners, who wish to be known as 39 Pierson LLC.
What shined on that Sunday morning were the happy young riders smartly astride their horses, strutting their best, in walking, trotting, cantering, and jumping, as parents, judges, and instructors kept a close eye. But to arrive upon that scene this reporter first entered the great white tent where the Elegant Horse Show Luncheon would take place at noon. The tables were waiting with extraordinary centerpieces created by individuals and organizations participating in the 6th Annual Floral Centerpiece Contest.
On a separate table were the silver trophies and prizes awaiting the young riders, aged from 5 to 18! Stepping out of the tent, and led by Frank “Rusty” Parker, who serves the GRTA as executive vice president of operation, we are met by a 13-year-old rider, Porter Campbell, with a big smile on her face having won an armful of trophies and blue ribbon. She introduces her sizeable horse as “Notorious,” aptly named, at 17 hands high.
“She’s been riding since she was two,” says her mom. “We lived across from a farm in Water Mill, L.I. and she would see the girls riding little ponies, saying ‘Mommie, ponies!’”
Most riders begin competing in their teens shares Rusty Parker. And they come from a 50-mile range. “It could be Long Island,” he notes. “The thing is there’s a lot of horse shows to choose from on a regular basis in the summer. People decide where they want to go, because certain people are going for points to qualify for something bigger. And so, the trainers all figure this out, one week at a time.”
“And in Ring Two riders trot please, in Ring Two,” says the loudspeaker most loudly.
We’re to meet up with a trainer, but first comes Rusty Parker’s son Frank Parker holding two wiggly small daughters. Frank has ridden as has his father and grandfather Frank “Bud” Parker who had headed the GRTA and supported it in many ways.
“In Ring One walk please, and in Ring Two riders canter please,” blasts the loudspeaker.
We next meet up with trainer Fred Schauder. “We start with children about five years old for horse shows. It will start with walks around the course to learn their overall appearance and their posture.” Schauder manages some 30 horses on Country Lane Farm on John Street, with more property on Round Hill Road. Training kids for 33 years he notes, “So, we have had three different generations of families now come through. Grandparents ride and parents ride, daughters and now granddaughters.” He adds, “So, my wife Christina and I have three daughters of our own that have all grown up riding here.”
Horseback riding, he can attest is, “Incredibly popular in Greenwich for the kids. When we first started this business, which Rusty would probably attest to, “It was the older families and their next generations that were coming along that were horse people and loved having their children ride.” But even with the transition of new people moving to Greenwich, he says, “There are endless numbers of children that want to ride. And COVID actually brought more kids out than ever before because it was a wonderful place to be outside – fresh air – out with an animal.”
Schauder introduces me to some of his young riders, including Regan Driscoll, age 6 ½, with two a bit older, Winnie Meister and Catherine Driscoll. “They’ve all been riding about two years,” says Schauder, who calls over four older girls for a photo, ranging in age from 12 to 16, and notes, “So, they’ve all been with us a long time.”
We head back to the tent as its lunchtime. With most of the competing families – and trainers busy ringside, the luncheon is mainly attended by “friends of friends,” says Rusty Parker. And the ladies with their hats and gentlemen have arrived. Some have gravitated to the auction items that include curious horse rider’s gear. “The auction actually went online last night” says Parker. “But if you’d like to bid, “There’s a 12-people croquet party, a sailboat luncheon, or a weekend in the Berkshires if it interests you.”
Parker introduces at the tent entrance, Lisa Bailey Cassidy who started the Elegant Horse Show Luncheon 11 years ago. She recalls, “The then chair of the horse show had decided she’d done it 25 years or so and she was ready to move on. And they needed a new chairperson and asked me to do it, which was fun. So, we just decided to add this more elegant luncheon and the Hunter Derby which has prize money, and it really took hold and had quite a following over the last 11 years.”
Inside the tent on exhibit are giant photographs of generations of GRTA notables astride horses: the Parker family, the Henry Fisher family, the von Gontards, Norma Bartol, Migi Serrell, and perched on a table the formal riding outfit of Elise Hillman Green’s mother, Sandra Hillman, worn at a Madison Square Garden competition.
Elise Green’s name was called out later in the lunch when Donna Moffly, founder with her late husband Jack of Greenwich Magazine, and longtime supporter of the Horse Show, read out the names of winners of the Annual Floral Centerpiece Contest. “Number Six goes to my friend Elise Green for a thing of beauty by going into her mother’s [Sandra Hillman’s historic] garden this morning in her nightgown and picking fresh roses, all pink and peach and white.”
First prize went to the Greenwich Tree Conservancy for its “amazing assemblage of all kinds of mosses on a log.” “Second prize goes to Troy Nurseries who did a straw hat right on this table,” said Moffly, adding, “I covet that hat.” And Third Prize went to Dancia Callahan for “probably the most amazing assemblage” Moffly had “ever seen.” But this reporter’s favorite was the white horse on our table with its mane and tail of air plants, surrounded by hydrangeas, with a sign that read “Sold” by its creator Catalina Weiser. Surely a keeper horse.
clouds did not hamper the 100th Greenwich Horse Show, returned to its handsome greenspace of fields and tree-lined pathways in the backcountry setting so kindly offered to the sponsoring Greenwich Riding and Trails Association (GRTA) by the Gerrish Milliken family for 37 years until the death of Phoebe Milliken in 2019 and subsequent sale of the Milliken property. Then came the Covid shut down in 2020, with in 2021 the need to move the Horse Show to a Bedford, NY location. But in 2022 the Greenwich Horse Show has returned to that Milliken setting off Bedford Road thanks to the generosity of the new owners, who wish to be known as 39 Pierson LLC.