The Lower Merion School District, Lower Merion Township and Haverford Township have announced a tentative deal for the Black Rock Middle School to use the Polo Field in the Bryn Mawr section of Haverford Township for baseball and softball practice space, according to an announcement last week, likely resulting in less land clearing and construction of new fields at Oakwell, a historic estate that the school district seized through eminent domain.
The school district’s original plans had included cutting down 538 trees with trunks larger than six inches in diameter. A community group called Save Oakwell organized in opposition to the plan. Students in the Lower Merion High School Environmental Club weighed in with their own proposal to use the Oakwell estate as an environmental learning space instead.
The environmental club, in a January 26 statement sent to Grid, says it has taken the announcement as a positive step, though it is still waiting for detailed plans from the school district, and it continues to advocate for an alternative location for the remaining soccer and lacrosse fields planned at Oakwell.
“The fact that the baseball field and the softball field have been ‘offloaded’ from the plan for Oakwell is a terrific thing. It shows that we are finally being heard,” Deborah Robbins, who lives nearby and is active in Save Oakwell, wrote in an email to Grid. Robbins also says that the group has been told that the Lower Merion Conservancy and the school district are collaborating on a new plan, though they have no details yet.
In the meantime, the advocacy effort continues. “Although we are celebrating the partial solution of using the Polo Field, we are also determined to protect Oakwell from the harm to trees and wildlife posed by two soccer fields, lighted parking, driveways and assorted other infrastructure (not to mention lawn chemicals and maintenance),” Robbins wrote.
Any development on Oakwell will destroy the ecosystem because the same parking lots, concession stand, bleachers and chemicals required to be used will undermine it, whether it’s 2 fields or 4 fields. Removing the many trees, including old growth trees, (and architecture) for 2 fields will destroy the underground root system of the trees to the point that the remaining trees will be threatened and likely die. It’s not a place that should be developed. We also need to preserve the architectural history for future generations to learn from. The bricks are hand made and the original owner helped to lay them. There is a treasure trove of Mercer tile in the main house. See The school district doesn’t value this as they should. We have fields to use, they can be improved with the $13 million or so slated to be used to destroy the history and environmental sanctity of Oakwell. Our kids need a safe place to live, a planet, more than brand new playing fields. A soccer field on a private home is being offered for sale to the LMSD. They have so far failed to explore this option, which is safely walkable from Black Rock Middle School, the school the fields are being specifically built for. New fields at Oakwell are not walkable and the kids would be bussed. What do we value? See https://www.growoakwell.com/, SaveOakwell FB page, and PreserveOakwell.com