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Heritage Conservancy defends cutting down 900 trees in Springfield


Doylestown-based Heritage Conservancy is defending a controversial decision to cut down hundreds of trees at a popular park it owns in Springfield Township.

Addressing the board of supervisors and some stunned residents, the organization’s president, Bill Kunze, said Heritage had no choice but to act given the danger the 3,000-plus dead ash trees posed to staff and visitors to Fuller-Pursell Preserve.

“An especially large number of trees were in falling distance of the trail,” he said.

More than 900 trees of varying sizes and species were cut down in the operation, but more than 2,000 dead ash trees were spared, Kunze remarked, adding that the nonprofit had planted 1,000 at the site over the past decade. However, he acknowledged his organization had not done a good job publicizing the operation, which blindsided supervisors and local residents.

One of those, neighboring landowner Bill McCarthy, said healthy trees, including walnuts, beeches and red oaks, were felled, including a beloved hollow sycamore tree that people young and old loved to enter. “I think they went totally overboard, cut down way too many trees.” Another resident said she was devastated after touring the park and accused the conservancy of neglecting the 64-acre site on Slifer Valley Road.

Supervisor Chairman Tony Matzura said the township would formally address the matter at an upcoming meeting after consulting with the Environmental Advisory Council and Parks and Land Preservation Board. The EAC plans to take up the issue at its meeting Thursday.

In further public comment, Scott Mullen, of Lehnenberg Road, asked if the township could notify and compel residents to remove dead ash trees. Solicitor Scott McNair replied that notices were a possibility but stopped short of advocating mandatory removal.

The emerald ash borer, native to Asia, has killed tens of millions of the trees across the eastern United States, many of which fall without warning.

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