RANT ALERT. If you don’t want to hear it, turn away now.
Traveling back from whence I came, or visiting issues in Lower Merion Township is always amusing albeit somewhat disturbing to always be amazed at the blind devotion to Lower Merion School District especially when once again they are doing something destructive.
The comments from the blind faithful THIS time are over Lower Merion School Board plans to bulldoze a beautiful swath of woodland unnecessarily is truly something which will take your breath away. I am not giving those comments air time because they are always the same thing: when it is distilled and boiled down, Lower Merion School District is perfect.
If you disagree with Lower Merion School District cheerleaders no matter what they are trying to do you are at a minimum a bad person. Or you are NIMBY, which doesn’t apply unless it’s in your neighborhood and even then it is just a knee jerk pejorative term most of the time. These folks want to drive their status symbol green friendly Teslas, but when it comes to actually doing better the environment in other ways, or even just preserving an area to keep a bit of charm, that is far too inconvenient.
And OMG you would think Lower Merion School District was in dire peril if they don’t get their way every single time.
MISPLACED SENSE OF ENTITLEMENT. Lots of school districts excel and thrive on far, far less.
No Lower Merion School District is not perfect and it has decades of issues to prove that. And no I don’t think highly of them.
And Lower Merion Township has contributed to issues surrounding Lower Merion School District vis a vis development. Sure they are separate entities autonomous from one and other, yet they have a weird codependency since what they do as individual entities affects the other. And when you overdevelop and they come, it overcrowds the school district, correct?
A few years ago now, Lower Merion School District had a failed attempt to seize land from Stoneleigh, the 100% preserved property donated by the Haas family to Natural Lands to remain preserved in perpetuity for people (and nature) to enjoy.
Then when Lower Merion Township School District couldn’t get their greedy paws on Stoneleigh, they acquired the old Clothier Estate and it was happy bulldozing. Oh and I forgot, before they attempted to get Stoneleigh, there was that whole situation where they made a play to take Ashbridge Park. Yes a park.
So then there was the whole thing of they still need more land and that old disco song “More, More, More” comes to mind because with Lower Merion School District more, more, more is always their mantra. Nothing is ever enough.
As a school district they could have sent representatives to Lower Merion Township for years to express concern over infill development, but they didn’t. And once upon a time, they had other schools, that they closed. They closed Ardmore Junior High School around 1978, they let the Ardmore Avenue School (elementary) rot and eventually closed it (that caused redistricting back then didn’t it although it was also integration?) they closed Bryn Mawr Elementary School, and the Wynnewood Road Elementary School.
So in my humble opinion, Lower Merion School District has always had issues and always been a crappy neighbor. In the vein of that opinion, their still current and fractured relationship with neighbors over field lights at Arnold Field. And remember redistricting again in the not too recent past and the case Students Doe v. Lower Merion School District which made it to the U.S. Supreme Court although it was not heard?
So back to Villanova where the new middle school with the stupid name that means nothing but could have meant something if they had bent their absurd rigidity and allow it to be named after beloved educator, Sean Hughes. Anyway, Lower Merion swoops in and elbows out Villanova University using eminent domain once again to get 13.4 acres on adjacent sites to Stoneleigh at 1800 West Montgomery Ave. and 1835 County Line Rd.
Oakwell. 13 acres of old growth woods and heritage trees, mostly majestic oak trees. HUNDREDS of them. This property was in play for a while and I believe the former owners just dangled a juicy carrot until they had enough people salivating. First it was Villanova University (which would have been just as bad owning this property in my opinion.) But you know Lower Merion School District and their favorite billy club of eminent domain, right?
So now it is to be turf field city, the hell with trees and species like the great horned owl which remarkably DOES live there? This is also still a threat to Stoneleigh in my humble opinion. This is also an enormous environmental threat to the entire area and will affect not only Lower Merion Township residents, but Radnor Township residents who literally are on the other side of terribly narrow County Line Road. And of course one can’t help but wonder, does a new school mean the need for another outpost for first responders? Where would THAT go if so?
This is post is truthfully an addendum to a last-minute call to arms the other day for anyone who grew up in Lower Merion Township or lives there still today.
Please continue to send emails telling the Lower Merion School District to NOT bulldoze down many acres of a pristine old growth oak forest. They want to destroy a valuable natural resource that will affect Stoneleigh immediately adjacent, and neighbors in Lower Merion Township and Radnor Township just so middle schoolers can have a few turf fields.
FLOOD THEIR EMAIL!
I hate to sound as old as dirt but we had plain old grass fields and survived quite nicely. It’s middle school. Of course ironically it’s also the place in school where they teach or used to teach earth science and this property is like a giant living earth science lab complete with great horned owls.
The school board keep trying to do an end run around neighbors who want to have a zoning hearing board meeting on this issue. I think it behooves all of us to support the neighbors and environmentalists on the front lines of this issue.
This property they acquired adjacent to Stoneleigh is irreplaceably special. It has mature woodlands with all sorts of flora and fauna species as well as the oaks. Those old growth oaks in particular are extraordinarily valuable, and not just monetarily. They are also heritage trees.
This property has been evaluated by experts and it is a treasure trove of species. It is home to many, many migratory birds, etc.
Here is whom you address your email to (and YES include LOWER MERION TOWNSHIP):
Now including those email addresses because if you have been sending emails their comment email address keeps getting overwhelmed.
The zoning meeting got cancelled on this topic this week. It is rescheduled. Do not know exact date. Including Lower Merion Township in your email will probably be the only response you get. And it will be from the current Township Secretary and it will be terse and may even feel somewhat rude, but you have put your sentiments on the record which is important in any issue. Don’t expect great things from the Township Manager, Ernie McNeely, and if you don’t believe me just ask folks in West Chester Borough where he came from before he became socially upwardly mobile and moved to Lower Merion, right?
By all accounts, Lower Merion School District finally has a decent superintendent. But he inherited a legacy of bad decisions and bad apples in my humble opinion. This was set into motion by the previous superintendent who was even worse than the one he succeeded.
Middle school kids can play just fine on grass fields and the new middle school has field space too. They could have fields on this latest seized property and save the woodlands. Saving those woodlands gives them opportunities from other than turf fields. Kids could learn from actual nature, not what is projected on a screen as they sit growing like mushrooms while they are looking at their phones anyway. Nature gives kids room to be kids.
Middle school kids aren’t competing for the Heisman Trophy or Soccer World Cup, maybe less playing fields and letting kids still be kids at that age would be more productive? But then the soccer moms and dads in their expensive athleisure wouldn’t be able to drive their giant gas guzzling or environmentally appropriate SUVs through the Starbucks drive thru with casual disregard for other drivers and pedestrians only to scream and yell at the side of a field and because it’s Lower Merion expect others to clean up their Starbucks cups, right?
Hell yea I am on a rant. This is ridiculous. I don’t always agree with Lower Merion resident Phil Browndeis, but his thoughts posted with his video shared above, struck a chord:
This is the last winter for a stand of old growth trees in Lower Merion. The Lower Merion School District plans to clear cut the trees to build new athletic fields for the new middle school. So much for carbon sequestration, wildlife habitat and all the other good that trees provide us.
Lower Merion Township is facing a great challenge which must be addressed with urgency: the Township is under tremendous development pressure which is being allowed to continue under old building and development and land use codes that do not protect and preserve the Township’s shrinking remaining environmental assets. This is a matter of grave concern: our tree canopy is under attack. Our waterways, already polluted, are being further compromised. Our cost to correct the adverse impacts of this type of development may greatly exceed whatever short term benefits may be derived.
An environmental tragedy is unfolding. Over 482 trees over 6” in diameter (which probably understates the number of mature trees) including 26 giant oaks, a magnificent oak savannah, and a densely treed mature woodland are slated for removal according to a proposal before the Township for their approval. It would be hard for this proposal to be enacted under the current zoning code, but this proposal is sadly grandfathered under old rules.
Due to an unfortunate set of events that occurred a few years ago, a wooded parcel was acquired by the School District for playing field development. This parcel is located at 1800 Montgomery Avenue and 1835 County Line Rd in Villanova. The plan involves an almost complete deforestation of the parcel including a clearcutting of vast swaths of trees. Neighbors say it is a stopover for migrating birds including snowy owls.
At the same time that this project is moving forward, the Township is in a planning process to write and implement a Sustainability/Greenhouse Gas Reduction plan and is considering adopting a Net Zero Carbon Emission resolution. The destruction of the woodland would be a self-inflicted wound making it far more difficult and costly to achieve the sustainability and carbon reduction we so desperately need. In addition, the children cannot walk to the proposed playing fields. They will have to be bussed. So we hope another site could be equally viable.
We are simply asking the Township authorities and the School district to work together to exhaustively and completely explore all other options. We must be stewards for our children and our children’s children. We can do the right thing, its not too late.
I don’t hold out great hope here, I am a realist and this school district is always selfish and so are the majority of their narcissistic blind faith devotees. However, you just don’t know and if we can save these woods, it is so crucially important to the are and to nature herself.
Thanks for allowing the rant, you know I love my oak trees and owls and woodpeckers and other critters. Visit Save Oakwell Sister to Stoneleigh on Facebook to keep up with what is happening. I guess I am a tree hugger after a fashion. And I definitely don’t agree with yet another bad plan by Lower Merion School District.
Maybe this in the end is just another Don Quixote tilting at windmills issue, but I still think it is something to talk about, and why not object to the plan? After all WHY couldn’t they preserve these woods and use other open space on property for fields? Why CAN’T they be part progress part preservationist? These trees are actually important and I am completely unapologetic to those who cannot see that.
Interesting reading on Lower Merion School District:
WHYY ‘Disconcerting to be a taxpayer and not be heard’: Lower Merion residents rebuke school district in open space battle
By Kenny Cooper October 14, 2021
6 ABC Save Stoneleigh supporters storm Lower Merion School Board meeting
By Annie McCormick
Wednesday, May 23, 2018
UPDATE ON PROPERTY ACQUISITION (2019)
Postmortem: Redistricting battle in Lower Merion
A week ago, the Supreme Court declined to hear Students Doe v. Lower Merion School District, ending the legal debate over the Lower Merion School Board’s redistricting plan.
by Adam Bredenberg
Published Jun 28, 2012
NOVEMBER 16, 2021 Lower Merion community wants new middle school named after late principal Sean Hughes
Students and parents have started an online petition to honor the longtime educator, but district policy explicitly prohibits naming buildings after people
BY HANNAH KANIK