Oak trees in Windsor that have stood at least 150 years were dismantled methodically Tuesday with a chain saw that dissected their limbs and trunks and sent them crashing to earth.
Despite a last-ditch effort to save the trees along Old Redwood Highway, they were cut down — landing with loud thuds — to make way for street improvements associated with a large residential-commercial project that includes an Oliver's supermarket and shopping center.
Five big oaks in particular, including a couple three feet in diameter, became the focus of a short-lived campaign to spare some some of them from destruction.
But there was no last-minute reprieve.
Windsor officials said the decision had been made a couple years ago to remove them to make way for improvements that are part of Bell Village.
But many trees are being retained, including a few bigger and older oaks, such as a 63-inch-diameter, 300-year-old specimen that will be the centerpiece of the new development.
"It's sad," interim community development director Ned Thomas acknowledged as he watched one of the larger oaks being chopped down. "The one saving grace is that great pains have been taken to preserve the nicest trees."
The trees are coming down, he noted, to make way for a a "complete street" that caters to pedestrians, bicycles and cars. Parking spaces, bike lanes and a couple roundabouts will be added to Old Redwood Highway.
Much discussion and study went into the project, Thomas said, and the site — the former Windsorland mobile home and trailer park — was examined by arborists multiple times.
"What the Town Council had to weigh was the redevelopment of this property. Clearly it's a very valuable piece of property, a key development site in the downtown area," Thomas said of the 25 acres.