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BAMBERG, Germany — Petitions signed by parents, students and teachers to save a wooded area near Bamberg Elementary School earlier this month were not enough to stop the bulldozing of trees to make way for $40 million of future construction on Warner Barracks.

In a letter to the editor published in Stars and Stripes on Dec. 23, teacher Karen Peterson expressed displeasure at the planned removal of the trees, views shared by other faculty members and some of the students.

The trees had to be cleared to make way for a new bus parking lot, which was requested by the school as a safety measure to protect the students, according to Lt. Col. Timothy Hill, 279th Base Support Battalion commander.

Hill said the work would include creating earthen berms to stop vehicles from getting too close to the school and to prevent students from walking in front of the buses. New trees would then be planted.

“My tax dollars will be used to chop down the trees, then build a berm and replant trees,” Peterson said. “Our school budgets have been slashed, but we have money to do this?”

She requested that a two-meter strip of trees be left standing to block out the sight of the parking lot and the pollution of idling buses.

But Hill said such a small strip of the forest would not survive the construction process because the extensive digging would damage the roots.

Although some faculty members said the students would be losing a valuable research tool when the trees come down, Hill said the trees were immature, having been planted atop a landfill.

“There’s rubble underneath the trees; it was a fill site,” he said. “This hasn’t been a forest for 300 years.”

Hill added that an area near the school known as “Engineer Lake” is being continually improved to give students the chance to study nature.

Additionally, Warner Barracks has approved $200,000 for the forestry division to plant trees elsewhere on the installation, in accordance with strict German reforestation laws, Hill said.

Removal of the trees leads the way for more than $40 million in construction projects, which will lead to a new post exchange and commissary complex, a new child development center and a new physical fitness center. All construction should be complete by 2005, Hill said. A proposal to build a new chapel is awaiting funding approval, he said.

“We have a commissary that is at least 75 years old,” Hill said. “Our PX has severely limited floor space, and the community has said there is a lack of choice[of stocked items] because of that.”

Additionally, the construction will move the family-oriented facilities much closer to the post’s housing area. Currently the PX, commissary and child care center are on the opposite end of the installation.

Hill conceded that cutting down the trees for the projects all at once will negatively affect the appearance of the installation, but that it is necessary to improve quality of life.

“For about two years, these areas will be aesthetically unpleasant, but you have to have that to have progress,” Hill said. “The quality-of-life improvement will be tremendous. Concerns from the community have been heard and incorporated into the design. We shouldn’t have to choose between nature and progress; we can have both.”


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