Town of Erin, WI – Neighbors on Emerald Drive in the Town of Erin are fighting to save hundreds of trees along three miles of Rustic Road. The scenic windy roads travel under a majestic canopy of trees. Part of the charm of the area is the quiet rolling hills and the Holy Hill Basilica in the distance.
While the speed limit is 35 miles an hour the roads are pitted and potholed and have not seen repairs in 50+ years. Town officials are now planning to repair the roads and as part of the process they say they have to clear cut trees extending 13 feet off the road.
Neighbors are concerned and opposing that effort.
Shailaja Reddy lives on Emerald Drive and is fighting to keep over 100 trees marked for removal. The road will not be widened as part of the repair, however the town said the trees need to be cut so the snow plow will not have to lift its blade to clear the road during the winter months. Mailboxes and power poles will remain in place, although trees will be removed.
Shailaja Reddy penned the note below.
The Town of Erin Board is planning more changes that are not in keeping with Erin’s character or purpose. As many of you know, many of the roads in our town are in desperate need of repair, having been laid more than 50-60 years ago. The town is currently focused on repairing Emerald Drive and St. Augustine Road.
This summer, as part of the road repair project, the Town plans to clear cut a large number of trees along these roads. If the Town were to execute its plan it will result in the removal of the beautiful tree canopy, much higher driving speeds, increased traffic on local roads, decreased safety for non-vehicular use of the roads, runoff, erosion and a dramatic change in the character of the roads that are designated as Rustic Roads.
Thus far the Town’s residents on Emerald Dr. and connected roads are overwhelmingly opposed to the Town’s tree cutting plan because it is excessive and will significantly damage the neighborhood, irrevocably at least for the rest of our lifetimes. The residents’ opposition is not just an emotional one but based on facts and data.
We want the Town to work with us, the residents, to develop a plan that adequately incorporates the residents’ needs. Since March 2020, we have written to the Board and Road Commission, attended their meetings, and called and met with individual Board members. The Town, thus far, has with impunity ignored us. Worse yet, not just us residents, the Town also ignores/rejects the opinions of specialists, and such actions or lack thereof could have long term impact including on entire species of trees!
One of the most startling aspects of the Town’s position is its view on the purpose of the roads. The Town has stated that the roads even in our residential neighborhoods are only for use by vehicular traffic and not for us to walk our dogs, let our kids ride their bikes, or go for a run! So much for the “Family Friendly Community” that Erin claims to be on its website!
I firmly believe the Town’s tree-cutting plans on Emerald Drive and St. Augustine Road will negatively affect our quality of life, property values, and property taxes. We, the property owners and residents in this area, intend to continue to put pressure on the Town to work with us to come up with a balanced road repair plan. I also firmly believe that unless we speak up and ensure that the Board listens to our voices NOW, the unwanted changes in our Town will continue into the future. We must demand that the Town’s elected Board members represent our interests.
The Town’s Annual Board meeting is in a couple of weeks. If you want to help save our Town or just want to know more please send me a message with your contact information and I will get you what you need. Please feel free to share this within your network.
Regards, Shailaja Reddy
Dennis Kenealy is the chairman on the Town Board of Erin.
“This is nothing more than our normal road reconstruction project and preparations for that,” said Kenealy. “These are obstacles in our right of way, the trees are already overgrown and it is not a safe situation.
“We have contracted to have the trees cut back and this is nothing we don’t already do on every town road.”
Kenealy acknowledged the road has been ignored and cited budget limitations for the amount of time it has taken to get to repairing Emerald Drive. “We’ve been trying to get to it with our limited money and now it’s time. We’ve done it on all the others and it is just a matter of time and money to get to this one,” he said.
Kenealy has been in office since 2001. (Chairman – Elected 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2015, 2017, 2019) “The road is basically falling apart,” he said. “This is our normal maintenance schedule.”
Questioned if there was any pushback on St. Augustine Road or Donegal Road with tree cutting to repair the road.
“Yes, there is pushback on Emerald Drive,” he said. “It is a Rustic Road designation but that doesn’t interfere with the Town’s right, obligation and duty to make a safe road.”
Kenealy rebuffed the suggestion that cutting the trees and improving the road would lead to increased speed for traffic. “We haven’t seen that on our other roads,” he said.
There was also the concern a large Oak on the corner of St. Augustine and Emerald Drive was going to be saved. Neighbors wondered how the town could cherry pick saving some trees and not others.
“We agreed to leave that tree alone because we would try to work around that Oak in deference only to some people who said they would maintain bigger trees in the area,” Kenealy said. “That was one concession we made. We didn’t do any cherry picking yet and we haven’t made a final decision yet. That has been their request and not ours.”
Kenealy said the tree-cutting contract has been bid out and approved. Kenealy claimed the total was between $6,000 to $8,000.
Paperwork above shows the total bid at $57,300 with amounts detailed for ash trees and all other trees.
He said the road construction would likely occur in 2021.
Neighbors rebut the focus on safety saying the town has ignored safety on the road for years.
“We’ve told them numerous times we don’t have the money to maintain the 56 miles of roads in the town,” said Kenealy. “We’ve taken the worst and worked backwards from there. We can only do a mile or a mile and a half a year. This is finally how we got this far.”
The next meeting in the Town of Erin is August 17 at 6 p.m. at the Town Hall,1846 State Highway 83 South, Hartford.
Click HEREfor the agenda. The agenda for the annual meeting at 7 p.m. has not yet been finalized.
Below is a letter from Shailaja Reddy to the Road Commission.
Date: April 15, 2020
Dear Road Commission Members:
We are writing to you about the proposed tree cutting on Emerald Drive in our Town of Erin. It is our understanding that the tree removal is in preparation for the repair and paving of the road. We are well aware of the poor condition of our road and support its overdue repair. However, the number of trees currently marked for removal is excessive and threatens to alter the rustic and scenic nature of Emerald Drive. As we are all aware, Emerald Drive (along with Donegal Road) is a designated rustic road. The State of Wisconsin created the system of rustic roads for the following purposes:
to create and preserve rustic and scenic roads for vehicular, bicycle, electric personal assistive mobility device, and pedestrian travel in unhurried, quiet and leisurely enjoyment; and
to protect and preserve recreational driving, culture, beauty, trees, vegetation and wildlife by establishing protective standards of rustic road design, access, speed, maintenance and identification, which will promote a continuous system of rustic roads and scenic easements for the public health and welfare.
In the last few years, Donegal Road underwent significant changes, which do not seem compatible with the nature of a designated rustic road. Furthermore, some of the removal of vegetation seems shortsighted and could cost the town more for remedial work in the future. We do not want a repeat of this effort on Emerald Drive or for that matter on any other road in the Town of Erin. As residents, it is in our interest to be good stewards of our town and our taxes.
It has been argued by some on the town’s road commission that the removal of trees is essential for the longevity of the roads. While there may be some truth to the argument the bigger issue this town faces is the road budget where a road is expected to last 50 years. The average life span of an asphalt road is about 15-20 years and is extended by 5-years or so with regular maintenance. In the last decade or more we have not seen any maintenance on Emerald Drive.
As an example, the ditches and culverts by the side of the road are not being cleared of debris causing runoff to backup and flood the road resulting in significant damage. Why is routine maintenance being ignored by the town? The fundamental issue however is that no road, even if all the trees in the vicinity are removed and with meticulous maintenance, can survive for the 50-year duration that the town’s budget allocation requires.
Ultimately, we want to see a balance in tackling the issue of road repair. The purpose of a rustic road is diverse and those interests must be maintained. We believe that having a “safe” road does not mean that the rustic road qualities cannot be preserved.
There are inconsistencies in the responses that we have received from the road commission regarding the tree removal and road development plans. We want to discuss and have a written plan before proceeding with any of the related activities. Please contact Shailaja Reddy at (262) 623-8759 or [email protected] to schedule a meeting or if you have questions.
Shailaja Reddy: _______________________________ Mike Oswald: ____________________________
Address: 1327 Emerald Drive, Hartford WI
Rebecca Towey: _______________________________ Rob Towey: ______________________________
The Town of Erin is nestled in the beautiful kettle moraine area of Washington County, located in southeastern Wisconsin.
The varied glacial topography makes the town very unique with dramatic changes in elevation. We have the highest point in southeastern Wisconsin, on which the Basilica at Holy Hill, National Shrine of Mary is located.
While we were not the first town ‘settled’ in Washington County, we are the oldest and the first one to incorporate by act of the Territorial Legislature on January 16, 1846. The fitting name “Erin” was suggested by one of the first settlers in the township, John Whelan.
The town is located in the far southwestern corner of Washington County, is 36 square miles in size, has approximately 3,790 residents and contains a mix of agricultural and residential property in a rural setting. The town includes the unincorporated hamlet of Thompson as well as several lakes including Druid, Loew’s, Murphy, McConville, Malloy, Beck, and Hickey Lake. There are two major rivers in town the Oconomowoc and Ashippun, along with smaller rivers and creeks including the Little Oconomowoc River, Flynn and Mason Creek.
We are bordered on the west by the Town of Ashippun in Dodge County; to the south by the Town of Merton in Waukesha County; to the east by the Town of Richfield and to the north by the Town of Hartford.