Gov. Francis woodlands restoration being planned

Warwick Beacon ·

The intent is to have trees and shrubs once again on a tract of land that was cleared of more than 40 trees – some of them believed to be more than 100 years old – by June 15, executive director of the Warwick Sewer Authority Janine Burke-Wells said last Thursday.

Burke-Wells, Superintendent Philip Thornton, a representative of the city planning department and others from the sewer authority and school department met last Wednesday to review what should be done in the wake of clearing of the slice of woodlands at the north end of Lansdowne Road in Governor Francis Farm. The land is part of the John Brown Francis School property. In the spirit of cooperation, the school department granted a request of the sewer authority for CB Utility of Bristol to use school property as a site to stage equipment and materials for the Phase III construction of Governor Francis Farm sewers.

Neither the sewer authority nor the school department was told about the clearing of the trees. The action also came to the surprise of residents, some of whom initially thought a path was being opened to the schoolyard. By the time it was evident the lot was being level cut, all but five trees had come down.

Burke-Wells said the group is working with a landscape architect. They have more than one plan to consider.

The neighbors, including one of their own, Anthony Russo, who is a licensed arborist, have drafted a plan to plant 32 trees. They would be a combination of white and red oaks, crabapples, white pines and maples. There would also be a variety of shrubs. Burke-Wells called Russo’s plan “good” and similar in many respects to what they have been looking at.

In a letter accompanying the proposed plan, Lansdowne resident Tom Wisnieswski pointed out that the group had met with Charles Lombardi, consultant to the sewer project, and reviewed suggestions with Elena Pascarella, landscape architect working on the sewer project.

“This proposed plan seems reasonable and an important step toward restoring some of what was destroyed,” Wisnieswski writes.

Burke-Wells said a combination of city department efforts would go into restoring the site. She noted there would be some “in-kind” services provided by departments but that the vegetation would need to be acquired. She estimated the cost at between $20,000 and $30,000.

Asked if the authority had paid for the removal of the trees in the first place, Burke-Wells said no.

It has still not been revealed who marked the trees for removal and gave the order to have them cut down. When the sewer authority learned of the clear cutting, the site was abandoned for the staging of construction equipment. That was moved to the west side of Warwick Avenue not far from Hoxsie Four Corners and a former dry cleaner next to Spring Green Pond.

Burke-Wells said a total of nine trees, some already dead, will be taken down on Lansdowne but at the south end of the road where a pumping station is to be built. She said a tree removal plan is being followed and will be posted a week before their removal.

Construction on the sewers has started and there has been at least one water line break. Burke-Wells was not surprised, saying the water lines date back to construction of the housing plat and are “quite brittle.” The project has also resulted in the relocation of a school bus stop.

The $5.1 million project will bring sewer accessibility to about 270 homes. The per-home assessment, Burke-Wells said, would be $21,000. The project is projected to be fully completed in about 18 months.

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