Bethany park project begins with removal of trees
As summer visitors arrive in Bethany Beach in full force, the Town is beginning one of the preliminary steps toward creation of a new public park that will someday offer recreational options for visitors and residents alike.
In preparation for development of the former Christian Church and Neff properties at the northwest corner of Routes 1 and 26 for their future life as a park, the Bethany Beach Town Council on June 15 approved a $28,000 contract with L.H. Excavations to remove so-called “junk trees” from the property, on the advice of the town arborist.
Town Manager Cliff Graviet said the trees identified for removal are largely on the northern two-thirds of the property and comprise about 60 to 70 percent of the tree cover there. “But much of what you see is of a scrub variety and, again, not a hardwood or a specimen tree by any stretch of the imagination,” he explained.
Graviet said the specific trees targeted for removal are multi-trunk trees, non-specimen trees with trunks less than 10 inches in diameter, damaged trees and “what our arborist has classified as ‘hazardous trees’ — trees that are growing in such a way or are interconnected with other trees in such a way that they pose problems.”
The bulk of the trees being removed have had their growth negatively impacted by the moisture and low-lying nature of the property, Graviet said — something that is expected to be tackled in the next phase of the park project, when a proposed pond could be constructed.
“This is preliminary to further looking at or examining the idea of putting a pond on the property,” Graviet explained about the tree removal.
Under the proposal, the Town would construct a pond and re-grade portions of the property to dry persistently damp and sometimes boggy sections and move the moisture into the pond, which would be a “wet” pond, rather than a “dry” stormwater retention facility that only fills with water when there is significant rain.
Many of the trees that are being removed are expected to be replaced with specimen trees that will then be expected to have a much better chance at growing into an aesthetically pleasing part of the slowly developing park.
Graviet noted that dialogue about developing the property into a park has been ongoing for about eight years, and while specifics of what the park might look like in the end have not been finalized, he noted that council members past and present had supported the idea of moving forward with developing the park in small steps, using town staff whenever possible to reduce costs.
“With anything that is done” on the park, he said, “the initial work would involve removal of these trees. … In order to evaluate the placement and other aspects of the pond, removal of the trees and grading of the property is critical.”
Council members on June 15 voted unanimously to approve the contract for the removal of the trees, and that work began last week, attracting alarm from some who hadn’t been aware the work was planned.
“The massive destruction of trees that took place between 2:30 and 3:45 p.m. on the 20th left me and fellow neighbors stunned, saddened and furious,” wrote part-time resident Mary Scott in an email to the Coastal Point. “Those trees left standing were marked with orange paint and yellow tape, with no apparent rationale as to which were to be saved or destroyed. Most all seemed doomed to destruction — even those adjacent to residences and bike paths.
“Surely, whatever park is envisioned, it is one that could have accommodated healthy older trees that provide welcome shade?” she continued. “Or perhaps the Town’s budget for this endeavor includes the hefty funds needed to replace so many large and healthy trees?”
Informed of the town arborists’ recommendation to remove the trees in question, Scott said, “The Town may consider them stunted, deformed and unhealthy, but they’ve survived there many years before my family came here 45 years ago. Seems to me if they can thrive that long in such boggy conditions, they’ve passed the test for ‘healthy.’ I hope the taxpayer-funded ‘specimen’ trees do as well.”
Graviet also told council members on June 15 that the Town may need to spend an additional $2,600 to have silt fence installed on the site as the work continues, to keep down travel of dust from the removal. However, he said he was not including that cost in the contract before them for the tree removal itself, as it wasn’t yet clear it would be needed and the $2,600 amount, if added later, would not require council approval.
The contract does include spreading of existing dirt that is currently piled at the south end of the property behind the water pump house. Graviet said he didn’t know if the removed trees would be chipped as part of the removal process, but he said the Town doesn’t have an immediate need for the wood chips that could provide.