The first Friends of Roberts Ridge Park (FRRP) “Information Party” was held at the home of Newtown Supervisor John Mack on July 21, 2019. The purpose of the party was to introduce local residents to FRRP’s plan to initially plant 25-30 native shade trees in the park. At the meeting about 25 people heard from several experts and township officials, including John Mack and fellow Supervisor Dennis Fisher, about FRRP’s plan and how it would benefit residents and the Township.
A Bit of History
At the BOS meeting, Elen and several other local residents objected to the conversion of a well-used area of the park into a meadow for several reasons, but mostly because it would make it much more difficult, if not impossible, for residents to walk their dogs, fly their kites, ride their sleds, relax, and practice soccer in the park as they have often done.
Also commenting at that BOS meeting was Joyce Ely, the president of the Neshaminy Creek Watershed Association (NCWA), a non-profit group that has long advocated for the planting of more trees. Her public and written comments to the BOS spoke about the importance of trees in preventing the contamination of the Township’s watersheds by pollutants such as sediment and agricultural runoff. Prevention of such pollution is the goal of the Pollution Reduction Plan, which Newtown was required to develop and submit to the PA Department of Environmental Protection as part of its application for an MS4 (Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System) permit. Without the plan and permit, the Township would not be legally allowed to discharge stormwater into local streams and rivers.
A Two-Phase Plan
An important discussion point at the meeting was made by Joyce Ely who emphasized that it is important to plant only native species as part of the plan. She summarized the reasons why this is important: (1) native trees are better adapted to the local environment and have a better chance of surviving, and (2) local trees and other plants support the types of insects that birds rely upon to survive. And, of course, native plants help prevent pollution of streams by reducing the volume of stormwater and reaching local streams, rivers, and lakes.
Jan Filios – a member of the Newtown Environmental Advisory Council (EAC) – also noted that native grasses have deeper roots than overgrown turf grass, which is how Newtown plans to convert areas of the park into a “meadow.” Longer roots help open up the soil for water filtration and eventually replenishes our aquifers instead of overtaxing our stormwater system.