General Hugh Mercer Monument on the Washington Avenue Mall

City Council Approves Washington Avenue Mall Tree Task Force Recommendations

by | Jul 13, 2016 | Government

By Susan Larson. Photo copyright Fredericksburg.Today

City Council voted 5 to 2 July 12, 2016, to accept the recommendations of the Washington Avenue Mall Tree Task Force, but not before debate as to whether or not they should take time to review the 78-page “Minority Report” submitted by task force member Steve Gaske. Gaske was the only task force member who did not agree with the recommendations.

Councilor’s Brad Ellis (Ward 1) and Charlie Frye (Ward 4) voted against accepting the task force’s recommendations.

“The petition served a very good purpose, allowing for public discussion,” said Jeanette Cadwallender, task force chair, in response to Councilman Matt Kelly’s (At-Large) assertion that those in disagreement with the task force majority had not been heard.

The task force recommendations approved by City Council were minor changes to the city’s existing tree plan. Those who had originally petitioned the city wanted more sweeping changes to reduce the number of trees on the Washington Avenue Mall in order to preserve more open sight lines to the monuments.

The task force recommended changes to the current tree plan include:
– Remove three ‘Little Gem’ magnolias (Magnolia grandiflora) from north side of Hugh Mercer monument and three from the north side of the Religious Freedom monument and restore area with grass. Complete by end of 2016.
– Reevaluate view of the Religious Freedom monument with respect to the cherry trees after removal of the ‘Little Gem’ magnolias. Staff should perform this review and recommend any further changes regarding the cherry trees to the Clean and Green Commission for their consideration and approval.
– Plant two New Harmony Elms (Ulmus americana) and two Red Oaks (Quercus rubra) at southern end of the center median per the current tree plan. Complete by end of 2016.
– Postpone planting of six Red Oaks and two New Harmony Elms in the center median as shown on the current plan until existing trees in this area have died and been removed.
– Leave all other existing tree plantings in place.

The task force recommended the following ongoing tree maintenance:
– Ensure proper pruning and care of growing trees so that sight lines to the monuments are maintained.
– Remove dead or dying trees as necessary and replace them with tree types per the tree plan.

More than 150 people gathered at Dorothy Hart Community Center on February 1, 2016, in response to a November 2015 petition signed by some residents of Washington Avenue asking the city “to halt the ongoing attempt to convert Washington Avenue Mall to forest land.”

City Council established a seven member task force charged with reviewing the public comments presented at the February public forum and the concerns raised by the Washington Avenue Mall petitioners to “develop a recommendation that best addresses the interests of the community at large with respect to changes to the current tree plan.”

The task force reviewed the concerns of the petitioners, which were:
• Elimination of open space and impacts to the mall’s historical significance, including obstruction of views to monuments, memorials, and homes; and
• Lack of public review and approval process for mall tree plantings.

The petitioners asked the city to:
– Remove trees that will obstruct sight lines;
– Transplant memorial trees to more appropriate locations
– Remediate the disturbed areas

The task force tallied the comments.
– 191 people supported the tree plan without changes (89.7 percent)
– 13 people supported minor or moderate changes to the plan (6.1 percent)
– 9 people support significant changes to the plan and/or removal of most trees from the mall (4.2 percent)

The seven member task force consisted of:
• A city resident representative – Jeanette Cadwallender, elected as task force chair
• A representative from the Washington Avenue Group – Steve Gaske
• A representative from Historic Fredericksburg Foundation – Emily Taggart
• A historic preservation specialist – Michael Spencer
• A representative from the Planning Commission – Roy McAfee
• A representative from the Clean and Green Commission – George Solley
• A representative from City staff – Dave King, assistant director of Public Works

The task force met five times in March, April and May. The meetings were open to the public, with an average of 10 – 20 people attending each. The task force presented its recommendations to the Clean and Green Commission on June 6 and to the Recreation Commission on June 16. “Both commissions were supportive of the recommendations and offered no comments or revisions,” Dave King, assistant director of Public Works, said in a memo.

Following Tuesday night’s vote to accept the task force recommendations, City Council received from city staff an update of the Administrative Procedures For Planting Of Street Trees And Trees In Parks.

Editor’s Note: Read the staff report, the task force majority report, and the minority report online here.

Speakers Overwhelmingly Support Washington Avenue Mall Tree Plan

City Schedules Forum to Tackle Washington Avenue Tree Dispute

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