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Wednesday, February 1, 2023
Home Government Mature Oak Trees @ Playland Cut Down

Mature Oak Trees @ Playland Cut Down

(PHOTO: This photo taken Sunday, October 23, 2022 looks down the plaza from the front Playland entrance. All the mature trees along the plaza have been removed.)
(PHOTO: This photo taken Sunday, October 23, 2022 looks down the plaza from the front Playland entrance. All the mature trees along the plaza have been removed.)

Please along read our follow-up story: County: the Playland Trees Cut Down Were Not Viable, New Trees Coming.

More than one dozen mature Oak trees along the main plaza of Rye Playland have been cut down and removed. The trees were cut in the last few weeks since the park ended its 94th season (and the first under the new Standard Amusements contract) in late September.

While the entire park is an active and inaccessible construction area, photos taken before and after show the main plaza from the entrance down to the concert area now devoid of trees. Mature oaks, likely as old as the park itself, towered above the plaza – higher than the Dragon Coaster – providing shade to Playland fun seekers. Oaks are considered a keystone species as mature Oaks support more diversity than any other native trees in our area.

Entomologist Doug Tallamy, bestselling author of The Nature of Oaks, happens to be – perhaps a bit ironically – a headline speaker at the Jay Heritage Center Sustainability Summit 2022 this Saturday, October 29th. Tallamy is one of the best known proponents of native plants and of the ecological value of Oak trees in particular.

(PHOTO: This photo taken September 23, 2022 shows the more than one dozen mature Oak trees lining the main plaza of Rye Playland. They have all been cut down.)
(PHOTO: This photo taken September 23, 2022 shows the more than one dozen mature Oak trees lining the main plaza of Rye Playland. They have all been cut down.)

Standard Amusements Wanted Trees Removed & the County Signed On

Sources tell MyRye.com Standard Amusements advanced the plan to remove all the trees saying many were hollowed out, damaged from storms and dangerous. Standard also argued newly planted trees would help return the park to its original historic design.

Standard brought the tree removal proposal to the County, agreeing to pay for the purported $1.8 million cost for removal, drainage and new landscaping. Subsequently Standard received approvals from the Westchester County Parks Board (a citizen led board appointed by the County Executive), the Westchester Department of Parks, Recreation and Conservation, and the County Board of Legislators.

“We are proud to be working with Westchester County to not only make Playland as safe as possible, but to help beautify the grounds and return it to its original historic design,” said Standard Amusements spokesperson Chris Bastardi. “The new Swamp White Oak trees are better equipped to withstand storms and an environment that is contiguous to the water. The County is putting significant resources behind this restorative work and we look forward to visitors experiencing the park as it was intended.”

Not Everyone Agreed

County Legislator and Rye resident Catherine Parker voted against cutting down the Playland Oaks twice – once as a member of the Parks Board and again at the Board of Legislators. “I had suggested to everybody [on the Parks Board] that they go to Playland and take a look at the trees and this was back in the spring,” Parker told MyRye.com. “And I knew that [the trees] were all budding so I felt that the story that these were dead trees was not accurate.”

(PHOTO: This file photo shows a mature Oak tree towering above Playland's famous Dragon Coaster. The tree has been cut down.)
(PHOTO: This file photo shows a mature Oak tree towering above Playland’s famous Dragon Coaster. The tree has been cut down.)

“[Standard Amusements] wanted the trees to all be uniform so that’s why they wanted them down. And I think that’s a travesty,” continued Parker. “I’ve told Nick Singer that, I’ve told other people at Standard considering the height of those trees, [they are] so necessary during floods. Trees like that really take a lot of stormwater. For purposes of flood mitigation, we should not remove those trees as well as they gave a tremendous amount of shade.”

Opposition also came from the County’s Historic Preservation and Advisory Committee (HPAC) but was not heeded. Playland is a National Historic Landmark. Back in 2018 when adding new members to HPAC, Rye guy and County Executive George Latimer, who lives adjacent to Playland, said “Westchester County is home to several properties of historical significance, and it is our job to ensure that these locations are protected. From Playland Amusement Park in Rye to the Tarrytown Lighthouse, and the Westchester County Center in between, Westchester County is a better place because of its heritage, and the historically significant buildings and properties owned by the County are integral to its character.”

“We are dealing with climate change,” said local resident and landscape designer Sue Drouin of Fairspring LLC. “As a landscape designer, there should be some mature elements and there should be some smaller elements,” she said explaining removal of the large trees lacked both ecological and design sense.

Drouin just assisted with the installation of rain garden at the Rye Art Center. “We are part of this greater ecosystem,” she continued. “To divorce ourselves of that connection is not a good thing right now. Think of the tens of thousands of visitors to the park and what they treasure about going there – that’s all been erased.”

BEFORE CUTTING:

(PHOTO: Rye Playland is now run by Standard Amusements.)
(PHOTO: This file photo shows mature Oak trees along the main plaza at Rye Playland. All these trees are been cut down.)

AFTER CUTTING:

(PHOTO: This photo taken Sunday, October 23, 2022 looks down the plaza from the the back entrance along the Edith Read access road. All the mature trees along the plaza have been removed.)
(PHOTO: This photo taken Sunday, October 23, 2022 looks down the plaza from the the back entrance along the Edith Read access road. All the mature trees along the plaza have been removed.)

2 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you for covering the mature tree removal at Playland. It should have been prevented, and I really appreciate Sue Drouin’s input as a landscape designer — remove the damaged trees, keep the rest and add saplings as needed. It just makes economic and environmental sense, especially at a time when our community is struggling with storm damage and flood mitigation.

  2. It’s very disturbing to see these trees cut down. They most certainly weren’t dead or dying except for maybe one or possibly two. I’m becoming more and more concerned that respect for Playland’s heritage is going to rapidly dwindle. I initially thought that Standard Amusements was going to do a good job for Playland, but I’m beginning to wonder. I truly hope my concerns are unfounded.

    One must wonder about the expenditure of 3 million dollars for a simple rotational ride (the motorcycle ride). It seems rather delicately constructed (how long are those mirrors going to last?). The fact that the motorcycles have car horns instead of motorcycle horns and that the motor sounds have an odd sound dropout when “revving” doesn’t instill a lot of confidence.

    When I visited last Summer I noticed that several rides were not fully functional (for example, the Old Mill had several displays that weren’t working as well as some in the other dark ride), but I hope this is because they’re spread thin with the upgrades.

    It is very disconcerting to see that picture with the trees gone, but I will try to remain cautiously optimistic that they will respect the heritage of Playland and maintain its charm and character.

    I will still hope for the best

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