Bridgeport residents angry over trees axed on Metro Center site
That's how Stephen Sassano, who lives on Morehouse Street in Bridgeport's Black Rock neighborhood, described the axing of trees Friday morning along the Fairfield banks of the Ash Creek where the town's third railroad station is being built as part of the Metro Center.
The trees, described by town officials as mostly invasive species that grew after the former Bullard Co. foundry was shut down several decades ago, were cut down so that soil contaminated by industrial waste can be removed from the property.
The previously forested site will be replaced with a 10.4-acre, publicly accessible conservation area with several wetland environments.
"They annihilated the other side of Ash Creek," said Sassano, who lives across the creek from the site. "They came in and took every single tree down in the entire watershed area, right up to the water line."
Sassano said he had seen bald eagles, peregrine falcons, deer and wild turkey among the trees. He equated cutting down the trees to the destruction of a "million years of ecology."
"All of this work is included in the approved plans," First Selectman Kenneth Flatto said Friday. He said the permits needed to cut down the trees and remediate the site were issued by the town's Inland Wetlands Commission as well as the state Department of Transportation.
Local public hearings on the Metro Center plan were held in 2004.
Flatto said the town's environmental site monitor, Redniss & Mead, did find an osprey nest among the trees and steps were taken to protect it.
"This was an industrial wasteland," Flatto said, adding the vegetation growing on the site was not of any environmental significance. When the remediation is done, he said, there will be viable wetlands and areas for the public to walk and fish. "It's going to be a vast improvement."
Those plans call for a fresh water wetland, a tidal marsh and estuarine wetlands, trees on raised planting beds and the reclamation of 2,000 lineal feet of Ash Creek's shoreline.
"There were 50-year-old oaks clear cut," said Peter Konsterlie, another Morehouse Street resident who was critical of the tree cutting. "I don't see how that is progress."
Both Konsterlie and Sassano said that, in addition to the environmental and aesthetic harm caused by the razing, the trees provided a sound buffer for residents from the noise of trains.
Konsterlie said there must be alternative way to remove casting sand or contaminated soil left on the site without destroying all the vegetation. "It was clear-cutting," he said. "There are no trees left."
He said the action has not affected any Fairfield neighborhoods. "They don't give a hoot about Bridgeport residents," he said of Fairfield officials.