I have heard much concern and many complaints related to the removal of trees south of the Eastsound airport. It is disappointing to me how quickly people jump to conclusions without looking into a situation to learn the truth. As far as I’m concerned, this project is a good thing. (I have no involvement in the project or the airport: I’m just a nearby resident.)
The airport depends on federal funds. These funds come with strings attached. Some of these strings concern pilot and public safety. This includes maintaining an area beyond the runway clear of obstructions for landings and take-offs.
Anyone who has walked the path between Lavender Hollow and the fire hall could see that what has been there is not a natural forest or wetland. There is a mono crop of trees, planted decades ago after clear-cutting, and some “pioneer species” of trees along the edge of the field. The diversity of plant and animal life in this area is low; much less than it could be along the edge of a wetland and woodland.
Publicly available documents at portoforcas.com detail the purpose and scope of the project. This includes an extensive list of thousands of native trees and shrubs to be planted as “wetland creation and enhancement” after the tree removal. Other recent projects, like the engineered wetland behind the Stage on the Green and the Land Bank’s “Stonebridge-Terrill Preserve,” show how effective this sort of enhancement can be. Diversity of habitat for wildlife should be greatly improved over what has been there. The ability of the wetland to absorb and filter surface runoff may also improve.
This project did not happen overnight as the result of some shady, backroom deal. It was the result of a 2014 runway obstruction survey and carefully considered alternatives, including an extensive environmental assessment. This is a model project; achieving its purpose of eliminating potentially hazardous runway obstructions while enhancing an existing wetland.
To all of those concerned about change in the islands — please stay involved, and please do your homework.