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Del Ray residents decry tree removal at Eugene Simpson Stadium Park

Del Ray residents form a chain around a tree in Eugene Simpson Stadium Park in Del Ray, June 22, 2023 (staff photo by James Cullum)

A number of Del Ray residents locked arms around an oak tree slated for removal at Eugene Simpson Stadium Park in Del Ray on Wednesday, only days after City Council approved a plan to renovate the park.

Gisele McAuliffe, a 30-year Del Ray resident, says that the city’s approved plan to renovate the park will come at too great a cost — the removal of 40 trees. The age of the trees is in dispute, as the city says the oldest trees on the property were planted in the 1940s, while McAuliffe and her friends measured the trees and claim they are upward of 100 years old.

“The reason for tearing down these beautiful trees is that they want to expand parking and put in bleachers,” McAuliffe said. “A park that has to accommodate cars when there’s plenty of street parking and other parking in the area just doesn’t make sense.”

The approved plan calls for the removal of 41 trees around the 16-acre property to make way for an expanded parking lot, new lighting and pedestrian improvements. The city says that there is no chance for the trees slated for removal to be saved.

“To mitigate the 41 trees being removed, the City is planting of 110 native trees and over 350 shrubs,” Jack Browand, the city’s deputy director of Parks Services. “The design doubles the total tree canopy currently in the park.”

The land for Simpson Park was donated to the city in the 1940s and the two baseball fields at the park were built in 1953.

“The City has not identified a tree that is reportedly 150 years old,” Browand said. “Historical area photos show at least back to the late 40s, the site was primarily open space with an informal baseball field.”

The new trees, combined with the trees that will be preserved, will provide 25.3% crown coverage within the site area, meeting the 25% minimum requirement and doubling the amount of 12% of crown coverage that exists today, according to the city.

The approved plan for Eugene Simpson Stadium Park in Del Ray (via City of Alexandria)

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