Three weeping cherry trees (from left) outside Sakura. / Photo by Andrew Colabella
Three weeping cherry trees (from left) outside Sakura. / Photo by Andrew Colabella

By Thane Grauel

WESTPORT — Sakura is Japanese for cherry blossom.

The restaurant of that name on Post Road East — one of the town’s oldest — has three weeping cherry trees out front, planted in its early days more than four decades ago.

Two of those trees have been tagged for removal by the state Department of Transportation.

Other trees on the same stretch of Post Road East, including in front of Mitchell’s and Westport Hardware, on the grounds of the town-owned Linxweiler House, and even on a median near Cumberland Farms, also are tagged for removal.

It’s all for a $6.5 million state intersection improvement project. The roadway will be widened in places, and turn lanes and sidewalks added.

The project has been in the works several years, but few seemed to know about the trees’ demise until they were recently tagged with colored ribbons.

One of the weeping cherry trees outside Sakura. / Photo by Andrew Colabella.
Weeping cherry trees outside Sakura. / Photo by Andrew Colabella

Representative Town Meeting member Andrew Colabella, District 4, is trying to save some of the trees, particularly Sakura’s cherries. He said concerned citizens have written dozens of letters.

“They’re literally cutting down every tree along the entire corridor,” Colabella said Thursday evening after the Westport Tree Board met and discussed the issue. A couple other RTM members were at the meeting.

The Tree Board and town tree warden have no jurisdiction over most of the trees because the Post Road is a state road. But Linxweiler House is a town property.

Nevertheless, the board agreed to ask that a letter be drafted by the town seeking preservation of the Sakura trees.

“They’re 3 feet from the side of the building,” Colabella said at the Tree Board hearing.

“They’re Japanese blossom trees, Sakura,” he said. “They’re healthy, they’re perfect, they’re fine.”

Nicole Chen, the owner of the restaurant, said the cherry trees were planted by the first owner when the restaurant was new some 40 or more years ago.

“Those two trees are beautiful,” she said of the two tagged trees. “They’ve been there for years.”

A DOT graphic of Post Road East work.
A DOT graphic of Post Road East work.

“Sakura stands for cherry blossom,” Chen said. “So that stands for the restaurant, for years. Everyone loves the cherry trees. I have so many customers that are upset when they hear about the trees.”

Chen said losing the trees would expose large windows to sunlight, and change the atmosphere of the restaurant.

‘Sakura stands for cherry blossom. So that stands for the restaurant,’

Nicole chen, owner of sakura

Tree Board member Dick Stein had low expectations.

“The state does not like trees near roads,” he said. “That’s all there is to it. And big trees they consider a liability, not an asset. So, they do anything and everything they can to eliminate potential problems.”

Sakura is one the state’s most popular Japanese restaurants. It is likely Westport’s second oldest eatery after Viva Zapata.

Thane Grauel, executive editor, grew up in Westport and has been a journalist in Fairfield County and beyond more than three decades. Reach him at editor@westportjournal.com. Learn more about us here.