LONDONDERRY — The group apple tree hug planned for Sunday may not go exactly as envisioned.
Mary Tetreau and her organization, Save Woodmont Apple Trees, were planning a rally to hug apple trees in an effort to spare hundreds of them from the ax.
But those plans may be altered after the property owner put up “No Trespassing” signs on Tuesday.
“It was a shock to see that,” Tetreau said. “I didn’t think once that it was trespassing.”
The land is owned by Pillsbury Realty. Michael Kettenbach represents the developer, who has proposed building thousands of homes, retail spaces, offices and medical facilities on the 639-acre parcel off Pillsbury and Gilcreast Roads.
Kettenbach did not respond to a request to comment.
Police Chief and Acting Town Manager William Hart said he has been in contact with both parties — the activists and the developer.
“We are reviewing what is appropriate for those who wish to express their feelings,” Hart said. “None of those details have been worked out right now, but we will be respectful of the rights of the property owner.”
Hart said no permit is needed, but the town usually asks that police be notified in advance of any large gathering. Organizers have said they expect some 100 people to show up Sunday afternoon.
SWAT is focused on just 19 acres of land, including 609 apple trees which line Gilcreast Road. The organization had planned a rally where they would take pictures with the trees, have a picnic and serve apple cider.
Now, Tetreau is looking at alternative plans.
“Maybe we could do a parade along the road,” she said yesterday. “Or we will make cardboard trees and hug those. We are creative; we will be able to think of something.”
But she said the response from Pillsbury was perplexing.
“It’s very ironic that this would come from a company, which says it is community friendly,” Tetreau said. “I don’t know why (Pillsbury) would feel so threatened by our team.”
Tetreau said she believes the signs may have the opposite effect than what was intended.
“I think we might get three times as many people as we would have gotten,” she said. “It’s turned into a David vs. Goliath thing.”
The organization had hopes 100 people would show to support their cause. Ellen Marshall, a former Derry resident, is traveling from New Jersey to try to help save the trees.
“It’s a sad and really a regrettable situation,” Marshall said. “It just seems hostile to me.”
But she said the no trespassing signs won’t change her efforts.
“I just want to thank and honor them,” she said. “This is where I grew up and it was part of my childhood.”
The rally is scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday at the corner of Gilcreast and Pillsbury Roads.