Burlingtonians opposed to the redesign of City Hall Park spoke out Wednesday night in defense of the trees.
About 50 members of the Keep the Park Green group turned out to a Development Review Board hearing at Burlington City Hall to argue in favor of keeping trees slated for removal as part of renovation plans for the park.
"The trees are the vibrancy of the park as we, the people, are the vibrancy of the city," said Charlie Messing, a member of the group.
The city is slated to install a new fountain and walkways as part of the redesign. Under the current plans, the city would remove 34 of the park's 56 trees. Sixteen new trees would be planted for a net total of 38 trees.
Wednesday marked the second DRB public hearing on the issue. After dozens of project opponents testified against the project at a February 20 meeting, the board scheduled another hearing to give the applicants an opportunity to respond and to allow more time for public input.
In the days following the meeting, some members of Keep the Park Green tied colorful ribbons around the trees and erected signs that read: "Epic Fail" and "I needed care, but didn't get any."
City arborist V.J. Comai offered a public tour of the park last week and found two trees that could be saved, and space for two more to be planted. "We did listen to the community on that one," noted Cindi Wight, director of Burlington Parks, Recreation & Waterfront.
Trees decorated with ribbons and signs
Comai on Wednesday noted that the trees slated for removal are in poor health, pose a safety risk, or don't fit with the new design.
Approval from the DRB would be yet another step in a multiyear process to renovate the park. The board will likely give the final OK in the next week, said Scott Gustin, head of the city's planning and zoning department. Construction is scheduled to start in 2019.
Opponents argued that taking down the trees exacerbates climate change.
"We're in the midst of a global climate catastrophe, and if what's being done will be making that more of a problem, that should be reconsidered," said Jack Daggitt. He urged the city to create more park space using vacant lots.
Donna Walters, of Keep the Park Green, asked whether some of the trees could be relocated. "We don’t think healthy trees should be cut down," she said.*
Gustin noted that the future of the trees doesn't fall under the purview of the DRB, which decides whether the project meets the city's zoning ordinance and whether the park provides a public benefit. So far, Gustin said, "it sure seems like it complies with the zoning code."
Correction, March 8, 2018: A previous version of this story misquoted Donna Walters.