To the Editor:
In a debacle, the renovations of the Memorial Park playground (in the Town of Mamaroneck) have caused the destruction of all the beautiful locust trees bordering the tennis courts. The excavation of the sidewalk was so badly and negligently done that all the roots on the north side were cut, rendering the trees so unstable they had to be taken down. As a result, the playground and tennis courts have lost shade and the community has lost the beauty of the canopy in the summer and the yellow the trees turned in the fall. Summer concert goers will now bake in the evening sun.
The loss of the trees is a catastrophe that was avoidable and the Town’s processes should be reviewed to avoid a repetition. For example, if the public had been more aware of the plans, they could have pointed out the issues that would have been obvious to those of us who are in the park every day.
The killing of the trees in Memorial Park was completely preventable. Not only were the roots visible on the north side of the trees, it should have been anticipated that trees that age would have roots extending out tens of feet. As such, the Town should have removed the sidewalk in a manner least damaging to the roots such as with a jackhammer or pick. Instead, they used an excavator, which cut right through the roots like a guillotine.
Further, there was a lack of supervision of the work. The minute it was seen that the roots were being cut, the Town should have stopped the work and come up with an alternative. That way, at least some of the trees could have been saved. Instead, the work continued with the excavator and all the trees were damaged beyond saving. In fact, the Town was not even aware of the damage until I sent the Supervisor pictures. I shudder to think that if I had not, the Town would not have known about the damage until a tree toppled onto the playground.
The Town and its citizens should work together for the common good. Instead, there is a lack of transparency by the Town. Regular park users were not aware of the proposed renovations until the construction fence was up. We are still waiting for a draft of a tree code that was promised before Thanksgiving. I have been told that there are “complicated” issues that are holding it up, but the Town will not divulge them. Meanwhile, the cutting of irreplaceable trees is going on unregulated. We need to move this along and start having public review and discussion.
The Town and its citizens is not ‘us against them.’ The Town exists to serve the people. The citizens want the Town to succeed, because when it fails, the consequences are horrible and irrevocable—like a sun baked park without trees.
Larchmont (Town of Mamaroneck)
Response from Town of Mamaroneck Supervisor Jaine Elkind Eney:
The new playground at Memorial Park is a necessary and wonderful improvement that will provide a safe play space for our young children. Loss of trees bordering the tennis courts is truly unfortunate, but sadly could not have been avoided. The design of the playground renovation project carefully considered potential impacts to existing trees located within the immediate footprint. Potential root damage to these trees was considered by Town Arborists based on proximity to the reconstructed walkway, which, due to spatial constraints, could not be relocated. It was hoped that these trees could survive if the root systems did not substantially interfere with the new sidewalks – an assessment that could not be verified until the existing sidewalks were removed. However, that proved to be impossible. Reevaluation by Town Arborists determined that survival of the trees was not viable.
Preservation of mature, healthy trees is a priority in all Town projects, but the trees in question were not originally planted with sufficient space for long-term preservation in proximity to park structures. The Town intends to plant new trees that will be more suitable in a recreational area. Existing trees along Baldwin Avenue will be protected to preserve shade canopy. We look forward to the unveiling of the new playground and the benefits it will provide to our community.