60-plus trees near Stamford’s Cloonan Middle School are coming down. Here’s why.

Photo of Brianna Gurciullo

STAMFORD — About 65 trees near Cloonan Middle School are being cut down amid construction of a multi-use trail between Mill River and Scalzi parks.

The project to build a lighted path for pedestrians and bicyclists along the Rippowam River is part of a long-envisioned plan by the city and the Mill River Park Collaborative to create a greenway all the way down to Long Island Sound.

The trees, many of which line Cloonan’s parking lot and an existing path toward J.M. Wright Technical High School, are either in the way of the greenway project, dead or a kind of invasive species such as black locust, said city planner Erin McKenna. Removal of the trees, which were painted with orange and red “X” marks, was expected to begin last week.

“While it will be upsetting for some to see trees disappear, the project includes a robust landscaping plan to enhance the area,” McKenna said in a notice last month to residents who live in the neighborhood. “And for years to come, there will be a new, lighted trail for residents and the students and staffs of Hart (Magnet Elementary School) and Cloonan to enjoy.”

The city had let the public know about the planned work some time ago, according to McKenna’s notice, but the project faced delays, so some residents might have forgotten about it or might have moved to the neighborhood more recently, she said.

Designing and permitting the new path from Hanrahan and Green streets to Scalzi park has taken years, McKenna noted. She said the city held a public information meeting in 2018, and a notice about the plans to remove the trees was posted in 2020 when work had been expected to start, as required by the city’s ordinances.

But the project was delayed in large part by the COVID-19 pandemic, McKenna said. It is now expected to be “substantially complete” by the end of this year.

Some teachers have voiced concern about the tree removals and how the project will affect parking at the school. Bonnie Kim Campbell, a paraeducator at Cloonan and a member of the Board of Representatives, said Principal David Tate has warned that some staff may need to park on the street.

“That’s going to be stressful, and you might end up getting in late, and you’re fighting with other people and residents who are parked on the street,” Campbell said. “So it’s disconcerting and it’s messy.”

The city did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the parking concern.