OLD LYME — With maps and a tape measure in hand, Tree Commission members walked a section of the south side of Ferry Road Tuesday afternoon to inspect the right-of-way where a new sidewalk could be installed and to count the number of trees that would need to be removed.
One tree that was in poor condition because it had been trimmed unevenly to avoid the power lines would be taken down, said Joanne Camillo, chair of the commission.
“It’s really half a tree,” she said.
In addition, two weeping cherry trees would likely be removed to construct a sidewalk along the south side of the street from the edge of the existing sidewalk to a new crosswalk that would be located about 100 feet west of Lt. River Lane to connect pedestrians to the north side of Ferry Road.
The original project would have replaced the sidewalk solely on the north side of Ferry Road, but it was discovered that 10 of the 13 trees — some of them older Norway Maples — would need to be taken down because their root systems would be cut during the construction process. Some of the trees were also determined to be in poor condition.
The alternative plan will prevent cutting down the trees on the north side of Ferry Road from 3 Ferry Road to Lt. River Lane but will not prevent removing a number of trees along the sidewalk from Lt. River Lane to Shore Road (Rt. 156).
The commission discussed moving the crosswalk further down Ferry Road toward Shore Road, which could have saved several Zelkova trees from removal on the north side of the street. But, First Selectman Tim Griswold said the crosswalk location was problematic because of the blind curve and the speed of vehicles moving along Ferry Road from Shore Road toward Lyme Street.
Other issues on the south side of the street include two houses located very close to the right-of-way.
“The people living there will not be happy with people walking in front of their houses,” Camillo said.
She said the input of the neighbors was essential in making the decision.
“I’m not talking about the community in general, I’m talking about the people who live here,” she said. “The neighbors’ ideas and comments are important and we don’t want to have one side against the other side.’
Griswold said a meeting with the neighbors was “planned but not scheduled.”
“We have to get a consensus on what we think might be the best approach and move from there,” he said.
The project will be funded by a Small Town Economic Assistance Program grant for $150,000, that includes $24,000 from the town and $126,000 from the state.
Tree removal costs are not included in the grant. Camillo said the costs of removing 10 trees and root systems, and grinding the stumps, would be expensive.
Griswold concurred, “It’s an unanticipated expense to remove the roots.”
Camillo suggested a hybrid solution of preserving parts of the three-foot-wide sidewalk on the north side of the road that are still level and adding in new four-foot sidewalk sections where the sidewalks were buckled.
Griswold said that the engineering firm mentioned alternate methods of building the sidewalk over the tree roots, but the cost was substantially higher. He questioned the longevity of the alternate solutions since growth of the tree roots was the cause of the sidewalk buckling.
Camillo said she had seen methods of excavating the soil around the roots, pushing the roots downward and filling in with gravel before installing the sidewalk above.
She said it was important to explore every idea that could save the trees.
“That’s what I said in October — explore everything that we can, this is a really difficult decision. In my 20 years on the Tree Commission, this is the most difficult decision we’ve had to make,” she said.