Turns out the mysteriously felled trees behind the Science Museum of Virginia weren’t a “mistake,” according to Mayor Dwight Jones.
In a statement released this afternoon, Jones says the trees were cut down because the training camp fields for the Washington Redskins’ summer training camp had to be moved 100 feet west of the property. The city’s Economic Development Authority is managing the project, and the changes weren’t communicated to City Hall.
This video, filmed by C. Wayne Taylor, shows the removal of trees on the site.
Here is Mayor Dwight Jones’ full statement:
“Since taking office, I’ve been focused on improving the tree canopy in our city, having supported the planting of more than 5,000 trees since taking office and making a commitment to pursue the planting of 2,000 trees a year for the next several years. Our city has been named as a Tree City USA 21 years and counting by the Arbor Day Foundation. This is something we are very proud of and we have the second longest streak in Virginia for holding this honor.
“I remain very concerned about the loss of the trees at the development site for the Redskins training camp. We now have a better understanding of how we got to this point and where the communications were not clear about this matter.
“In October a shift was made in the plans for the site. That shift, which moved our project roughly 100 feet west on the site, came about to protect the visibility of a future special events center behind the Science Museum. The trees were removed in accordance with those revamped plans. Those plans were submitted to the Urban Design Committee and the Planning Commission.
“While our original intent was to preserve as many trees as possible and while it was our belief that plans drawn up supported that intent, the shift of the 100 feet to the west essentially caused the removal of most of the trees we had intended to preserve.
“Everyone knows we cannot put the trees back and this is not reversible. What we must work toward now is ensuring that we impact the site in a positive way and that we are keeping our commitment to provide a public park at the west end of the site.
“The first thing I am moving to do is to strengthen communication between my office and the development group that has been moving this project forward. Clearly what was missing was clarity on the commitments and sensitivities related to this project that my office has been managing. Communication needs to be seamless and it has not been. My chief of staff, Suzette Denslow, will now be tasked with attending the weekly project meetings. I’ve also asked the development group to begin providing a weekly briefing report on all aspects of the project. That report will be shared with City Council on a weekly basis.
“With respect to the new landscaping plan I have requested, I’ve asked the development group to see if we can achieve an even better than one-for-one replacement rate of trees. At this time, we believe we can exceed one-for-one. I expect to have a new supplemental landscaping plan by mid-February. We have about two acres to work with on the site to develop the park area. I think we should engage stakeholders about the development of that area and I’m requesting the development group to include stakeholders like the Urban Forestry Commission, the Capital Trees partnership, and our own City arborist in discussions about the site. I’m grateful that the city has so many valuable resources that we can call on to be part of the solution in this matter.
“I want to close by saying that I don’t want this problem to deter us from completing this project. This project has been and still is a tremendous opportunity for the city of Richmond and we are grateful for all those that have entered into partnership with us to make this happen. This project remains a top priority project and one that we need to move expeditiously on. I appreciate the very hard work that has already gone into this from the entire design and construction team.
“I will make sure that the public is fully aware of the new landscaping plans when they are presented next month.”