The tree, sitting at about 40 feet long, has been stuck in the water for more than two weeks at Miami Beach in Old Lyme.
OLD LYME, Conn. — A massive tree is causing a bit of a “tiff” on Connecticut’s shoreline. The tree made its way to Miami Beach in Old Lyme during last month’s storms, and it’s been stuck in the water ever since. Over the last two weeks, there’s been a lot of back and forth about who is responsible for getting rid of the safety hazard.
“From our perspective, the town should have worked with the state of Connecticut, worked with DEEP to get it removed before it became a danger,” said Mark Mongillo, President of the Miami Beach Association.
The association is made up of 262 houses and about 450 members who live near the water in Old Lyme. It’s a chartered organization, responsible for the same things as a local municipality. Members of the association pay town taxes, plus extra taxes for living along the shore.
“We pay for our own lights, electricity, insurance. We have to maintain our roads, we have snow plowing contracts, we have beach contracts. Anything that would happen in a municipality is basically what we do,” Mongillo said.
However, Mongillo said their property line very clearly ends at a certain point…at the high tide water mark. Therefore, anything below that, meaning in the water, he said is not their responsibility. The tree is sitting in the water, near the public swimming area.
“So, therein lies part of our issue with what’s happening,” Mangillo said.
The association has been reaching out to the state and to local town officials since the tree showed up on their shore on July 18. Mangillo said those efforts have fallen on deaf ears.
“Briefly stated, (they said) it’s not our problem,” Mangillo said.
FOX61 reached out to the town’s First Selectman, Tim Griswold.
Griswold believes the tree is not sitting on their property, either. Removing it, he said, wouldn’t be fair for other associations, which have already spent thousands cleaning up after this summer’s storms.
“If we were to suddenly say, ‘Okay, we will take a large tree off of your beach,’ then that sets a precedent and other people would want the same treatment,” Griswold said.
Griswold said if there were a federal disaster declaration for the damage, they may have been get the state to help out.
FOX61 also reached out to The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. The organization’s communications team responded with the following statement.
“DEEP recognizes that there is an extraordinary amount of debris in Long Island Sound and our inland rivers as a result of the weather events of the past few weeks. DEEP does not address naturally occurring floating debris such as trees, logs, or other woody debris upon Connecticut’s waterways, nor will the USCG typically respond unless the floating debris is lodged in such a way to block a federal navigation channel (e.g. in a bridge underpass). We recognize that this type of debris can be hazardous for those recreating in the water and we routinely advise boaters and swimmers to be wary of floating debris and to always be on the lookout.”
Now, Mangillo said he and his members have no choice but to take matters into their own hands. They reached out to see how much it’d cost to take the tree down and got a quote for $4,000. Mangillo said they don’t have that kind of money, especially after already spending $4,000 on other summer storm cleanup efforts.
“From our perspective, now we have this large tree that could have been taken care of almost two and a half weeks ago,” Mangillo said.
Mangillo argues that even if the tree is not considered to be on public property now, the state and the town had a chance to take care of it when it definitely was. At first, the tree was out at sea near Hawks Nest Beach. Within a few days, it moved, knocking down the swim line and the buoys in its path, before landing near Miami Beach’s shoreline.
“So, it took about five, six days for it to break through and start to come down this way. So, that’s five or six days that the town could have done something about it instead of saying, ‘let’s see what happens,’” Mangillo said.
Now with no other option, the association is taking care of it this weekend on their own time, with their own money. The first selectman said he sympathizes with them but stands by his point about precedence.
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“Certainly, on the shoreline in Old Lyme and even over to New London, big chunks of wood and other things have washed up on the beaches and people have been disposing of them without demanding the towns take care of it for them,” Griswold said. “And probably people who spent anywhere from 3-$10,000 cleaning their beach. And maybe they’d say, ‘Well, I’ve already cleaned out so maybe you should pay me the cost of removal.’ So, I think it would snowball into a big problem.”
“It’s a shame it’s coming down to this but, we already paid $4,000 for pickup. We can’t afford to pay another $4,000. This is our taxpayer’s hard-earned money,” Mangillo said. “But we did not budget for $8-$10,000 of extra costs. It just didn’t make any sense.”
Julia LeBlanc is a reporter at FOX61 News. She can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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