Whitemarsh to hold public meetings to allow for additional public comment on monument to veterans

On January 11th, Whitemarsh Township announced that it would hold off allowing construction of a monument to veterans in Miles Park (at the corner of Germantown Pike and Joshua Road) to allow for additional public comment.

Below is the statement from the township:

Whitemarsh Township has announced a plan for public meetings to allow the community to discuss the plans for the proposed “Heroes Ground” Veterans Monument in Miles Park. Heroes Ground is intended to be a place where residents can honor and pay tribute to those who have served our country. The development of Heroes Ground is being led by the Veterans’ Monument Foundation of Whitemarsh. The foundation started raising funds for the monument in 2011.

Heroes Ground has come before the Shade Tree Commission, the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors for discussion since being proposed nearly a decade ago. The Township and the Veterans Monument Foundation would like to provide additional opportunities for the community to review the project. The intent is to hold these meetings when we can gather safely outdoors rather than via Zoom. The time and location of the meetings will be announced shortly. No construction will begin until after the meetings.

The issue began with a petition started by Whitemarsh resident Eli Glick that asked Whitemarsh Township’s supervisors to not allow the removal of several trees, including two healthy Dawn Redwood trees. From there is grew into a larger discussion as to whether a busy intersection was the appropriate location for this monument. We are not going to cover the location discussion in this article. This will focus on the trees.

After MoreThanTheCurve.com published an article about the petition, we received an email from Sara Erlbaum, president of the Veterans Monument Foundation of Whitemarsh. Erlbaum provided a timeline of the process the monument went through to be approved by the township and the effort to educate the public about the plan.

We spent part of yesterday going through the minutes of the public meetings outlined in Erlbaum’s email. We found that the plan for the monument started with no trees being impacted to requiring the removal of several trees.

During a Planning Commission meeting on June 25, 2019, Whitemarsh resident Linda Doll asked if any trees will be removed. From the minutes.

Linda Doll, Fairway Road, doesn’t recall all those trees and wants to know if any of the trees will be relocated or cut down (no, there is a lot of open space)

During a Shade Tree Committee meeting on August 6, 2019, Doll addressed a new plan to remove trees to make way for ADA access and the township’s arborist belief that Ash trees at the location were going to die in the near future anyway. From the minutes:

She [Linda Doll] expressed disappointment that the Veterans Monument project will require the removal of trees. Linda stated that she was told at a past Planning Commission meeting that no trees would be removed for that project.

Earlier in the same August 6, 2019 meeting, it was explained why trees needed to be removed. From the minutes:

Charles Shepherd a member of the non-profit board overseeing the project presented plans. The plans require two Ash trees to be removed and one Pear tree to be removed (in decline), and one Hornbeam that will be removed to allow ADA access. They propose to add six canopy trees and nine flowering trees to the landscape. One existing memorial tree will also be left untouched by this project.

Chair Ziegler asked if Charles knew the species of trees being planted. The plans show Eastern Redbud, Serviceberry, Hawthorn, Okame Cherry, and Norway Spruce.

Linda Doll of Fairway Road asked if all Ash trees even if they are not diseased. Chair Ziegler replied that Ash trees are dying as a species due to the Emerald Ash Borer. The Township Arborist agreed the species will likely be deceased within one to two years. David D’Amore asked if those Ash trees need to be removed in order to erect the monument. Charles Shepherd stated that he believed the Ash trees were in the path of the ADA walkway.

Eli Glick of Whitefield Drive stated that he would like to see 100% of the species planted be native species.

Mr. Fassbender agreed that native species should be planted and added that the earth disturbance would likely impact the existing Ash trees. Charles agreed to take that request back to their landscape architect. The Township Arborist stated that, by way of the grading, the Ash trees would not survive.

Chair Ziegler opened the discussion for board comment. Mr. D’Amore stated that he would be amenable to the removal of the Ash trees given the Emerald Borer issues, but that he would like to see as many native species used for replacement as possible. Mr. D’Amore made a motion to approve with the caveat that the project’s Landscape architects use as many native replacement species as possible.

In a letter dated November 10, 2020, from John Rockwell Hosbach Jr. of Urban Forester and the township, Rockwell writes that the applicant (the non-profit committee) is now seeking to remove two dawn redwoods and it is for “visual benefits.” Hosbach writes:

Pursuant to the revised plan dated 11/2/2020, the applicant is requesting the removal of two dawn redwoods which equate to 59 DBH inches to be removed. The reasoning for this removal is for visual benefits of the monument and flag center. The applicant is proposing to utilize 23 shade
trees and a 50/50 mix of 18 trees (9 evergreen and 9 ornamental) to suffice the original compensatory along with the 59” to be removed in addition. Total of 95 inches to be removed

Let us know what you think in the comments.