Smithfield votes 4-3 for longleaf pine expansion in Windsor Castle Park

Published 4:44 pm Monday, October 10, 2022

Smithfield’s Town Council voted 4-3 on Oct. 5 to expand an area of longleaf pines in Windsor Castle Park into an adjacent field.

According to a memorandum from Town Manager Michael Stallings, the expansion would eliminate the need for the town to continue to pay to have the field mowed, and would come at little cost to the town, as the Virginia Department of Forestry currently has a sufficient supply of trees to accommodate the project.

The planting would be a volunteer-led effort of the Windsor Castle Park Foundation in partnership with the Western Tidewater Master Naturalists. According to Mayor Carter Williams, the project would also entail an expansion of the park’s walking trail.

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Council members Renee Rountree, Randy Pack and Valerie Butler cast the dissenting votes. Butler and Rountree said they’d prefer the town heed the result of its survey of residents, in which the longleaf pine idea had finished second to an agricultural proposal.

In August and September, 38% of the 110 residents who responded to the survey indicated they’d prefer the field to be planted with crops or flowers. The longleaf pine planting was the second-highest preference, coming in at 27%, followed by 22% who specified “other” uses and 11.8% who indicated they’d desire to see the area remain an open grass field. Six of the respondents who chose “other” urged in their remarks that the town proceed with its plans for planting longleaf pines, bringing the total support for the pines to 36%.

The pines would take up a “pristine piece of property with lots of potential uses, forever,” Pack argued.

Council member Wayne Hall, however, said he didn’t believe agriculture to be an appropriate use for land along the walking trails, noting the potential for pesticide use in farming operations. The longleaf pine idea, Hall noted, had been a recommendation from environmentalists with the Department of Forestry.

Williams said he’d talked to area farmers uninterested in planting crops in the Windsor Castle Park field.

Longleaf pines, according to the Department of Forestry, are native to southeastern Virginia and were used extensively in shipbuilding in colonial times.