By Alex Lippa
---- — LONDONDERRY— More than 10,000 apple trees could be chopped down to make room for the proposed Woodmont Commons project. Mary Tetreau is trying to save 609 of them.
Tetreau, a Londonderry resident, has formed an organization, Save Woodmont Apple Trees, in an effort to preserve a small portion of the 639-acre parcel for a park.
SWAT will rally Aug. 4 — hugging trees in an effort to spare them from the chopping block.
“We want to make a strong statement,” Tetreau said. “We want to make ourselves known.”
Tetreau has been getting the word out about her rally and expects many to show up in defense of the trees. Attendees are encouraged to hug some of the trees and there will be a “group hug” of people holding hands around the apple trees.
The organization is focused on 19 acres of the land, including orchards which line Gilcreast Road.
“Londonderry has a strong link to our agricultural past,” she said. “It is known for great orchards. People come here from all over the world during apple picking season.”
The orchard was sold in 2010 to Michael Kettenbach of Pillsbury Realty Development. Kettenbach wants to turn the land into a multi-use development with homes and businesses.
The mammoth project would bring thousands of homes, retail spaces, offices and medical facilities to an area off Pillsbury and Gilcreast Roads.
Resident Jack Falvey asked the Planning Board to require the developer to make a 19-acre park.
“The Woodmont plan already calls for 40 percent of the land to be used as open space,” Falvey said. “This is just 3 percent of the space; we want some of that to be space that we can all use.”
He said the land also is used for cross-country skiing and biking.
Tetreau said those 19 acres are highly visible to anyone traveling along Gilcreast Road.
“People drive by these orchards several times a day,” she said. “Before you know it, the plan will be approved and it will be gone.”
Falvey said there is a sense of urgency.
“There’s a couple people on the Planning Board we know who are in favor of it, so we don’t know how it will end up,” he said.
Planning Board Chairman Art Rugg and Kettenbach did not return requests for comment.
Tetreau said she is trying to move fast and show the Planning Board there is strong support for the park. She said she got the hugging idea after seeing the St. Johnsbury, Vt., community rallied for laid-off librarians by hugging the library.
“It’s such an easy thing to do, but it can also be strong and powerful,” she said. “Not everyone likes to stand up at a Planning Board meeting and make their voice heard. But here is their chance.”