City: Trees cut down at Redskins site was 'mistake'
Jan 15, 2013 (Richmond Times-Dispatch - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
With work just beginning on the $10 million Washington Redskins training camp facility, city officials already are looking into what Mayor Dwight C. Jones called a "mistake" that resulted in all but a handful of trees being cleared from the 17-acre site.
"I was taken aback to learn that more trees were removed from the site than originally anticipated," Jones said in a statement Monday. "This is counter to our commitment to protect the older hardwood trees at the west end of the property. We are reviewing the matter to determine what mistakes were made so that we can prevent further problems from occurring."
The training camp facility is being built by Richmond's Economic Development Authority on land leased from the state off Leigh Street behind the Science Museum of Virginia. In June, the team announced it would move its training camp to Richmond this year as part an economic incentive deal with the state.
The facility, which is being built in a sponsorship arrangement with Bon Secours Richmond Health System, includes two side-by-side football fields, a drill field, spectator areas, locker rooms and training facilities. It also will host sports medicine and men's health offices. Site work, including grading and excavation, began last week.
In an email, Mark Hourigan of Hourigan Construction, the project manager, referred questions about the trees to Economic Development Authority board Chairman Rich Johnson.
A voicemail message and automatic e-mail reply from Johnson said he would be on vacation this week and would not have access to a phone. He did not respond Monday to an e-mail seeking an answer on the trees.
Tammy Hawley, Jones' press secretary, said Jones' chief of staff, Suzette Denslow, noticed the mass clearing of the site and notified others in the administration. Hawley said city officials are reviewing the matter to determine where the communications lapse occurred.
"There was the expectation that as many trees as possible were going to be left," Hawley said.
On Monday afternoon, hardly any trees could be seen standing on the site amid the mounds of churned-up earth. Denslow said 14 trees near the eastern edge of the property were left untouched.
However, preserving the wooded western piece of the site, which formerly hosted an exercise trail and dozens of large trees, was a key concern for residents who attended a community meeting in November on the training camp plan.
Councilman Chris A. Hilbert of the 3rd District said he was "disgusted and outraged" by the loss of the trees, adding that it "calls into question the entire management of this project."
"I demand a full report on how this was allowed to happen and the specific steps that will be taken immediately to resolve and remedy this loss," Hilbert said.
Jones said he is committed to one-for-one tree replacement.
"I have also directed that a new landscaping plan be developed and larger, more mature trees be used for the western area. I know that everyone is moving forward quickly with construction to meet our June 2013 deadline, but we need to be mindful of commitments," Jones said. "A mistake was made, and we need it to be rectified, and we need to prevent further problems."
City Council President Charles R. Samuels who represents the training camp area in the 2nd District, said he was shocked when he drove by the site and saw that the land had been clear-cut.
"While I do not believe the trees were torn down at the direction of the (Jones) administration, I am gravely concerned about the communication efforts that preceded the trees coming down, as clearly our agreement between the administration and Richmond City Council was not honored or communicated to the construction workers," Samuels said in a statement.
"Trees are an integral part of our urban neighborhoods, and my goal is to repopulate the city with appropriate trees, not to remove old-growth trees merely for development. I am sorry this situation has developed and will work to find a solution."
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