Tree Fanciers Work In Shade Of Disapproval

Posted: November 10, 1988

Elizabeth Tompers remembers when she could walk along Ridley Avenue in the pouring rain and never get wet.

"The trees that lined the street acted like a giant umbrella," said the 70-year-old Ridley Park native.

The stately trees in the 100-year-old borough are important to Tompers, who is concerned because about a dozen of them are dying each year.

To ensure that the trees are replaced and perpetuated, Tompers founded the Ridley Park Greening and Tree Committee and acts as its secretary.

She wants the evergreens, and every other species, to be everlasting.

"We've planted over 100 trees in the past two years," she said, "and our goal is to plant a minimum of 12 trees a year."

Not everyone appreciates the greening of Ridley Park. Councilman Benjamin Glenn, chairman of the Parks and Property Committee, says he is upset. ''We've got too many trees already," Glenn said.

He said that Tomper's group once planted a tree right in the middle of a baseball playing field and it had to be removed.

Having a large number of trees is costly for the borough, he said, especially in the fall when the leaves have to be picked up.

"They cause about 90 percent of our sidewalk problems," Glenn said, "and the sewers often get blocked with tree roots.

"But I guess I'm not a tree lover to begin with," he said.

Tompers, however, says trees are more of a benefit than a detriment to the community.

"They purify the air, act as a wind break in the winter and contribute to a temperature drop in the summer," she said. Her group has learned by its mistake in the baseball field and now plants trees and shrubbery only along the perimeters of the parks, she added, "so they won't interfere with the playground areas."

She has done research to learn what types of shrubs and trees to plant to cause the least problems with their leaves and roots, and she has solicited the help of a tree expert at Penn State University.

Despite her efforts, her group remains controversial among borough officials.

"Trees are a sore subject around here," said Ridley Park borough manager Charles Neely. "If we find (the committee) planted them on borough property, we get upset. We have the right to determine where trees are placed."

The president of the Ridley Park Greening and Tree Committee, Claire Heinemeyer, said she was "perturbed" with the attitude of borough officials.

"I can't understand their opposition," said Heinemeyer. "They're not responsible for any financial burden. People of all ages in the borough have offered their help. We've received excellent support."

The committee is financed by private donations and was started using Tomper's own money. The committee has about $1,000 in its treasury, she said, and is soliciting donations.

"Our children and our children's children will benefit from this," Tompers said. "I think this organization is going to do very well. I'm certainly not backing down, and when I die I'm going to leave a nice big fund (for the committee) in the bank."

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