Newtown News
Welcome to the July, 2019, issue of
Newtown News Update
. Back issues and
subscribing information can be foundhere. The opinions expressed here are
solely the those of John Mack and do not reflect the opinions of any other
person or entity.
Elen Snyder (standing), founder of Friends of Roberts Ridge Park, and Joyce Ely,
director of the Neshaminy Creek Watershed Association, present their plan to
Local Residents Meet to Learn About Plans
to Plant Trees in Roberts Ridge Park
The first Friends of Roberts Ridge Park (FRRP) “Information Party” was held
at the home of Newtown Supervisor John Mack on July 21, 2019. The
purpose of the party was to introduce local residents to FRRP’s plan to
initially plant 25-30 native shade trees in the park. At the meeting about 25
people heard from several experts and township officials, including John
Mack and fellow Supervisor Dennis Fisher, about FRRP’s plan and how it
would benefit residents and the Township.
A Bit of History
A Bit of History
It all started when Elen Snyder – a resident of the Windermere development
on Lower Dolington Road – read in the
Newtown Patch
and on the Nextdoor
online social group that 6.21 acres of Roberts Ridge Park across the street
from her house were going to be converted to a “meadow” as part of
Newtown’s Pollution Reduction Plan (read “Newtown Township’s Pollution
Reduction Plan: How Will It Impact Our Parks?’;
Elen was concerned and decided to speak out against the plan – at least the
part of the plan that involved her beloved local park – at a meeting of the
Newtown Board of Supervisors (BOS) on May 8, 2019 (see the video:
At the BOS meeting, Elen and several other local residents objected to the
conversion of a well-used area of the park into a meadow for several
reasons, but mostly because it would make it much more difficult, if not
impossible, for residents to walk their dogs, fly their kites, ride their sleds,
relax, and practice soccer in the park as they have often done.
Also commenting at that BOS meeting was Joyce Ely, the president of the
Neshaminy Creek Watershed Association (NCWA), a non-profit group that
has long advocated for the planting of more trees. Her public and written
comments to the BOS spoke about the importance of trees in preventing the
contamination of the Township’s watersheds by pollutants such as sediment
and agricultural runoff. Prevention of such pollution is the goal of the
Pollution Reduction Plan, which Newtown was required to develop and
submit to the PA Department of Environmental Protection as part of its
application for an MS4 (Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System) permit.
Without the plan and permit, the Township would not be legally allowed to
discharge stormwater into local streams and rivers.
A Two-Phase Plan
FRRP has a two-phase plan: (1) The group will raise private money by
donations from neighbors and friends to purchase native trees and supplies;
and (2) the group will also work with the NCWA and Newtown Township to
apply for a 2020 grant to provide additional trees. The first phase is called
the “Family Plan” because anyone making a $70 donation can dedicate a
tree – perhaps in memory of a family member – and a plaque will mark the
tree as donated by the family. Elen has already received pledges just 10
short of her goal.
An important discussion point at the meeting was made by Joyce Ely who
emphasized that it is important to plant only native species as part of the
plan. She summarized the reasons why this is important: (1) native trees
are better adapted to the local environment and have a better chance of
surviving, and (2) local trees and other plants support the types of insects
that birds rely upon to survive. And, of course, native plants help prevent
pollution of streams by reducing the volume of stormwater and reaching
local streams, rivers, and lakes.
Jan Filios – a member of the Newtown Environmental Advisory Council (EAC)
– also noted that native grasses have deeper roots than overgrown turf
grass, which is how Newtown plans to convert areas of the park into a
“meadow.” Longer roots help open up the soil for water filtration and
eventually replenishes our aquifers instead of overtaxing our stormwater
What's Next?
Any plan that involves Newtown’s parks must be approved initially by the
Department of Parks and Recreation and ultimately by the Newtown BOS
with input from the Township Manager. George Skladany, a member of the
Newtown EAC, laid out a possible task list and schedule for obtaining
Township approval that involved the following steps for representatives of
the Friends of Roberts Ridge Park to take:
1. Meet with the Director of Parks & Recreation to present their plan and
then jointly prepare a formal presentation to the Parks & Recreation
2. present the unified plan to the Parks & Recreation Committee for
3. along with the Parks & Recreation Committee, participate in a BOS
Work Session meeting to answer any questions and finalize details of
the project, and
4. along with the Parks & Recreation Committee, present the approved
unified plan to BOS for approval at a regular monthly public meeting
for a vote on the plan.
Learn More
If you would like to learn more about the Friends of Roberts Ridge Park
and/or make a donation to plant a tree, please contact Elen Snyder via
email at or by phone at 215-776-0482. You can also
join the Facebook Group: or the Nextdoor Group: