ALEXANDRIA, VA- -Del Ray locals gathered Thursday, June 22, to protest the City of Alexandria’s renovation plan for the Eugene Simpson Stadium Park, which includes cutting down many large Willow Oak trees.
According to the plan, which the city council unanimously approved last Saturday, the city will cut down 41 trees to increase pedestrian access, and expand the parking lot and access to bleachers.
“I can not overstate how large the canopies of these trees are,” writes Gisele McAuliffe in an email to The Zebra Press, whose Nextdoor post sparked interest among the community. “Here we are in the world, terribly concerned about climate change, and the City of Alexandria acts as if it hasn’t heard of climate change by deciding to chop down three old, large, perfectly healthy willow oaks that have lived in my neighborhood, in Alexandria, longer than any of us residents!”
McAuliffe, a 30-year Del Ray resident, says her Nextdoor post, which she created just two days ago, has received over 5,000 views. After many exchanges on the site, McAuliffe organized the gathering, which she announced via a press release.
“And why does this plan with its concession stand seem so eerily familiar to the 5 AM cutting, against public protests, of the 150-year-old T.C. Williams ‘Witness Tree’ to make room for a concession stand?” McAuliffe added in her press release. “The possibility that the City of Alexandria could repeat such an atrocious act is frightening to many of us residents.”
Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson has been in contact with McAuliffe. McAuliffe alleges that the trees are all around 100 years old, but Wilson says they are much younger.
“Unfortunately, this release is replete with numerous factual inaccuracies,” Wilson writes in a response to McAuliffe. “The tree at Alexandria City High School was not 150 years old. It was planted when the school was built in the 1960s. It was removed for ADA bathrooms. This proposal DOUBLES the crown coverage on the site, planting over 100 new trees. The tree you are referencing is most definitely not 100-150 years old. It was planted when the stadium was constructed in the 1950s.”
Kathleen Cohn, a Del Ray resident who attended the protest, said the city should consider the effects cutting these trees would have on climate change.
“In cities at the forefront of climate change, like Miami, for example, they put aside absolutely enormous budgets to plant trees,” says Cohn. “An oak this size — the shade it casts, it plays such a huge role in reducing the heat, especially in cities.”