Jackson residents concerned with plans to remove 300-year-old trees
JACKSON, Mich. (WILX) - Several oak trees are at the center of controversy Tuesday in Jackson.
Update: Dozens protest Jackson ISD decision to remove centuries-old trees for parking lot expansion
The Jackson County Intermediate School District has plans to transform the former Frost Elementary School into a school for students with special needs, but part of the plan means chopping down several oak trees that are hundreds of years old.
The school board said they’ve been working to do what they can to prevent cutting all of the trees down and laid out a plan at a meeting Tuesday.
Dozens of Jackson community members attended the board meeting to protest the removal of nine trees for the upcoming project. Some of those trees are about 300 years old.
Jackson County Intermediate School District superintendent Kevin Oxley said the plan has been two years in the making.
“It’s part of the site plan for the new building that we’re going in. We have to put in a bus loop and we have to have parking for the building,” Oxley said. “The original site plan through a two-year planning process determined that was the best place to put it.”
In a December meeting, concerns came up about the removal of the trees. So the district went back to the drawing board to come up with a hypothetical plan, which would only eliminate three of the nine trees.
Related: Construction plans for parking lot in Jackson draw criticism
“Since December, we’ve been trying to think of solutions that we can come up with that both save the trees and provide a safe bus drop off for our students,” Oxley said.
“This would be a fantastic learning opportunity,” said Dr. John Hand. “An educational and psychotherapeutic opportunity for the children to be involved in that kind of setting.”
Hand is a clinical psychologist who has been working with special needs patients for more than 50 years. He said the students attending the new ISD Campus would greatly benefit from having those trees and suggests turning the area into a park that can be utilized for therapeutic purposes.
“They can touch, they can feel, the can experience emotions at a very deep level,” Hand said. “Nothing brings that out more than being in nature.”
The new plan would still remove two of the largest and oldest trees.
A town hall session is planned for March 1 where community members can give more input on the project.
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