Proposed Bloomington library threatens to destroy a decade of trees planted by schoolchildren

IFA member J. Schafer Meyer is sounding the alarm about a proposed library branch that threatens acres of trees in Bloomington. The Monroe County Public Library board is scheduled to discuss its branch plan at its Sept. 16 meeting, which will begin with a budget hearing at 5:45 p.m. Here is Meyer’s take on the situation.

Starting in 1999 and for ten years thereafter, Monroe County schoolkids planted 500 native seedlings a year on four and a half acres adjacent to Batchelor Middle School on the southwest side of Bloomington. Trees were planted at other schools but the Tree Fest showcase was at Batchelor.
Hundreds of kids’ hands and hearts generated what is now a flourishing woodland.

Now comes the Monroe County Public Library with a plan to build a branch on Monroe County’s southwest side. Claiming that sites are scarce, they have entered into a purchase agreement with the Monroe County Community School Corporation to build on the tree stand now known as Batchelor
Woods – the woods planted by the kids over eleven years. An overlay map shows that most of the trees would be chopped down for the new building.

It seems to me that, if the library rolls ahead with this plan, they would be breaking faith with the kids and their adult helpers. Breaking faith, breaking promises is a serious moral issue. We teach our kids not to behave that way. The planting teams expected to return to visit their woods down through the years. Destroying the trees is “business as usual.” That approach is eroding away life on this planet.

The building proposal at this site is, on its face, flawed. Ironically, the library houses tomes of wisdom, ethical and ecological, that should dissuade builders from setting aside promises to kids and the carbon storing capacity of the woods, the cooling effect of trees in urban settings and habitat for the few creatures that still live in Indiana.

Ironies abound: the site building proposal includes an “Environmental Learning Center” and a “Contemplative Garden,” as well as the new library,  parking, an amphitheater and expansion space. A mere fringe of greenery would remain on this six-acre site.

Libraries are public, democracy-inducing wonders. They are a public good – no doubt about it. But come on library crew, scope around out there. Sharpen up your locator tools and come up with some barren spot upon which to construct a dream we can all find praiseworthy.

IFA members: you are numerous in Bloomington. Please weigh in on this with your public officials and librarians. There has been significant give-and-take on the Bloomington Herald-Times editorial page on this issue. As Dave Simcox says: “Never give up!”

The next library meeting open to the public is Sept. 16 at the downtown library in Bloomington at 5:45 p.m. Masks are required and social distancing will be observed. Tom Coleman, a retired I.U. professor, wrote an opinion piece for the H-T making the case to save the kids’ trees. He is preparing a website which should be ready in “a matter of days.”