I would strongly encourage the School Board to encourage the design team to make some small tweaks that could potentially save one or several more trees on the hillside at Reed school.

Dear School Board Members,

After attending Monday’s evening site tour, I would strongly encourage the School Board to encourage the design team to make some small tweaks that could potentially save one or several more trees on the hillside at Reed school.

One participant in Monday’s meeting sketched out the possibilities on how some slight modifications in the sidewalk could likely save some trees while keeping the larger design intact.  The same thought crossed my mind. Please see the attached.

As I said, however, at the Monday meeting overall the outcome was a disappointment despite the hard work by all involved in the PFRC and BLPC process (for which we are thankful). 

Several years ago, I was a member of the Ashlawn expansion PFRC and followed the Ashlawn BLPC discussions.  At the time, I felt that APS was not paying enough attention to preserving mature trees.  It had adopted the attitude that over fulfilling the requirement for replacement trees balanced their excessive tree cutting plans.  Replacement trees, however, only become true replacement trees decades later. Thankfully, the community ultimately prevailed on APS at least to redesign the Montague Street entrance saving a number of magnificent, mature trees.

At the time, we were left with the impression that APS would do better on the next school project.  Thus, there is an expectation, which came out at Monday’s meeting, that APS would work harder to save more mature trees.  In practice, this expectation meant that design features that may be convenient for construction or nice-to-haves – like a likely to be underutilized outdoor classroom – and excessive parking and drop-off loops may not be necessary if it involves further removal of mature trees.

I understand at one of your recent School Board meeting that an ATAG member underscored how many trees have been cut down by subsequent APS school expansions.  I am not sure APS is doing that much better, in fact, it seems to be one of the major threats to Arlington’s mature tree canopy! 

The matter of preserving mature trees has taken on some urgency as the disastrous flooding in Westover this summer illustrates.  You have already received a number of e-mails about the benefits of mature trees for storm water management let alone their contribution to our health and environment, and the education and well-being of our children.

There is an irony in APS approach to the Reed school that adds to the disappointment in the end result.  The outdoor classroom/amphitheater space presumably by being outdoors is supposed directly or indirectly contribute to the students’ understanding of ecology, yet it will come at the expense of mature trees that are important having a healthy environment.  School is in session only part of the year, while our need for trees is year round.  Is this really best use of this space?  A geo-thermal powered net-zero energy ambition, presumably to help us have a better environment, is being created by destroying an existing mature tree canopy that is equally important to having a pleasant environment.  There is something wrong with this picture.

In any event, I hope you will give further consideration to the attached in that a few more of those magnificent, mature trees can be saved for the benefit of the community as well as the children who will be attending the school.

Thank you,

Joshua Handler

Arlington Urban Forestry Commission Commissioner

Alternative path to preserve trees at Reed