VHCA has closely followed the expansion plans for Inman Middle School. The first construction drawings have just emerged, and a number of trees on campus have been marked for removal. Some of the most relevant school personnel are not back from holidays to provide all the information we want, but we met the city arborist at the site during his formal posting and learned a few things.
Four of the marked trees are designated DDH – dead, dying, or hazardous (i.e., the arborist determined that they merit removal based on their existing health). One of those, a large water oak on Park Drive, has a critical root zone that will be compromised by the creation of the new school bus lane. There are other trees marked for removal for reasons we do not currently understand, nor do other members of the Inman Expansion Committee to whom we’ve spoken. Included in this group of trees are several that appear to be well outside the boundaries of the softball field featured on early renderings, including two along Virginia Ave and another near the entrance to the parking lot.
These trees may be marked for reasons related to issues with existing sewer, stormwater, and utility lines that traverse the school fields along Virginia Ave and (are believed to) connect to other lines down Virginia just west of John Howell Park. According to the VHCA rep who served on the previous Inman expansion, those lines were problematic then.
By early next week, we expect to have seen the plans and have better information, which we will share with residents on vahi.org. We have full faith in the integrity and knowledge of the city arborist who is handling the case, but we want to understand the reasoning behind the requested removals. If there are ways to save trees in this process, we’d like to know them, and we believe that APS would, too.
Softball Field Renovations
Many Virginia-Highland residents aren’t even aware Inman has a competitive softball team, partly because the team travels about five miles to Crim High School for its ‘home’ games. Crim is a nice facility, but it’s not home for Inman students. Games on campus will result in many more residents and students getting to see the team, local citizens will be able to attend, and the entire experience will have much more of a community and family feel to it. These are outcomes we support enthusiastically.
Crowd sizes are historically modest and the school’s own parking lot will be available for parking. The games start well after the lot’s daytime users have left, and many local residents will bike or walk, as they do now. We have also told APS that we want to be part of the design of the new facility, so that the field retains its neighborhood character and feel, including an appearance that is consistent with John Howell Park across the street. We very much hope that such facilities will continue to be accessible to all citizens during off-hours, as they are now; that decision, of course, belongs to the school system, which owns the property in its entirety. By far the best way to achieve all these outcomes is to work as closely as we can with the school and be as supportive as possible.
Supportive doesn’t mean uncritical; we all believe the sylvan nature of the neighborhood is invaluable. It has been our experience that a reasoned fact-based discussion centered on understanding mutual needs and goals is most likely to achieve all these ends. This is the approach that VHCA and its members have pursued in our interaction with APS on this expansion, and we are convinced that it yields the best results.
As we learn more specifics about the trees and the rest of the project, we’ll share them here.