The Bernardsville News, 12/12/13, Full page ad/letter
AN OPEN LETTER TO OUR NEIGHBORS
Usually neighbors are thought of as living next door. But in a community like Bernardsville, neighbors are people who understand and help each other, no matter the address.
Some neighbors in town need your and our support. And in helping them, we’ll be helping each other as well as the quality of life in Bernardsville.
Here’s the story: Our Board of Education is determined to expand one of the athletic fields at Bernards High School by cutting down over 250 trees on an adjacent woodland of just 2.5 acres situated between the high school and the area behind Friendly’s and King’s Supermarket. This woodland also separates the high school and the homes of people who live along and around Old Colony Road. For us this is not personally a “backyard issue.” We live miles away. But the homeowners affected by the expansion have called on their fellow citizens to see what’s at stake for all of us and to join them in preserving this patch of woodland.
Ironically, what the Board of Education wants to do isn’t even necessary. Just turn the proposed expansion sideways along the present fields – run it north-south instead of east-west — and bingo! our youngsters have their new fields, the woodland is spared, the trees survive, and Bernardsville’s unique character and quality of life get a boost.
We’re asking the Board of Education to think again. It’s not too late to do the right thing.
Our local ecology is already dying from a thousand cuts. The heart of our town is increasingly denuded. Think of Route 202 as Bernardsville’s Main Street. It is fast becoming Paramus. The monstrous Chase Mound stares down at us from where familiar houses and trees once stood. One cluster of trees between Friendly’s and King’s Supermarket was recently leveled. Strip 250 trees from the area between the shopping center and the high school and our “downtown” suffers another blow. Take a look as you drive along Route 202. Imagine what the loss of just one acre of trees can mean to our town’s character. Do we want this area to be barren of green space?
Trees are important to everyone’s health, no matter whether you live next door to them or not. They absorb pollution. They soak up carbon dioxide and slow down global warming. They protect against ultraviolent radiation. Cutting down 250 trees next to a school – denude the protective barrier between the school and a shopping center — is a bad idea. We won’t get those trees back. And while the kids may get a little more space for athletics, they will be losing an irreplaceable laboratory of nature. That’s not a good swap.
And this is only one woodland. Bernardsville features a patchwork of small diverse pockets like it. Don’t think of them in isolation; think of them as collective life support for animals, plants, and human beings. That’s why it is essential to care about a single woodland even far from where you live.
This threatened woodland habitat is alive with nature. Migratory birds stop over. The lyrical kingfisher nests nearby. Chickadees, robins, titmice, flying squirrels, and green frogs have been spotted. A recent nocturnal study by the firm BR Environmental found 66 species that are part of the web of life. When we cut down trees, we murder an ecosystem. We all suffer from the unintended consequences.
Unfortunately, the residents whose properties would be most directly impacted have been dismissed by school board officials for a “not-in-my-backyard-mentality” and for spreading “many misconceptions.” That’s untrue and unfair. Fighting to defend one’s home from the encroachment of arbitrary state power is a proud American tradition.
These homeowners are acting for all of us. Let’s rally to the cause.
We urge you to show your support by attending the December 19th Planning Board meeting at 7:30 pm at Bernardsville Borough Hall. Call or write our Board of Education (25 Olcott Avenue, 07924) and Borough Council members. Join and contribute to ACRES at http://www.acresinfo.org (Active Citizens for Responsible Sustainability) or write to ACRES (P.O. Box 555, Bernardsville, NJ 07924). Stay informed, be involved, save the woodland.
Judith and Bill Moyers