ATAG Presentation to Arlington School Board, September 5, 2019

Agenda Item: Reed School construction

Thank you, members of the School Board, for the opportunity to speak with you this evening.

I am Angela Dickey, an Arlington resident and a founding member of the Arlington Tree Action Group, or ATAG. For three years ATAG has been fighting to preserve Arlington’s rapidly dwindling tree canopy. Forty-five percent (45 %) of Arlington County is now covered with impervious surfaces—built environments and pavement. With all respect, APS is contributing to this problem.

I would like to remind the board members of one of APS’s stated core values:

“Stewardship: Manage our resources to honor the community’s investment in our schools; create safe, healthy, and environmentally sustainable learning environments; support civic and community engagement; and serve current and future generations.”

Now, I would like to give you some statistics of which you may not, but should be, aware. These actions have been made, or are being made, in your name:

Right now, we are discussing the possible cutting of several healthy, mature trees behind Reed School, which will destroy the existing tree canopy.

Also this year, at Stratford Middle School, you authorized 157 trees to be cut down, including several that were felled in order to create a temporary roadway for construction equipment.

In 2018, you authorized 157 mature trees in a public park to be cut down to create Thomas Jefferson Middle School.

In 2015, your predecessors authorized 152 trees to be cut down at Abingdon Elementary.

In 2014, at Ashlawn Elementary, 94 mature trees, including seven in a Resource Protected Area, which is required to be protected under the Chesapeake Bay Protection Ordinance, were felled at the instruction of your predecessors.

That same year—2014—the School Board authorized the cutting of 78 trees at McKinley Elementary.

In other words, even before you authorize the cutting of mature trees at Reed School, APS will have cut down approximately 640 trees at five schools within the last five years. Many of these trees could have been saved had the School Board been taking its environmental stewardship responsibilities seriously.

From my point of view, APS is failing at the task of managing the natural resources under its charge. Indeed, you are destroying the very environment you say you are trying to protect.

It is beyond comprehension that you would contemplate causing such a large land disturbance and loss of mature trees, which help hold the hillside behind Reed School in place, in an area that just two months ago experienced a severe flooding episode.

Does APS not understand the connection between tree loss, impervious surfaces, storm water runoff, and major flooding?

The Reed School design can be easily modified by dropping the plan to cut into the hillside and creating an amphitheater. You will save money and save the beautiful canopy that is a defining feature of the current neighborhood.  That canopy is a living buffer against climate change and severe flooding. It is a public good for the larger Arlington community.

In sum, it is critical for APS to move tree preservation from the end of the line to the forefront of consideration when considering school construction.

Thank you for the opportunity to raise these concerns with you tonight.

Angela Dickey

Arlington, VA