LONDONDERRY — After hearing of a citizens group's plans to "hug the trees goodbye" this weekend, the developers of the controversial Woodmont Commons project had a somewhat less cuddly reaction.
On Tuesday afternoon, a series of bright-yellow "No Trespassing" signs appeared along the perimeter of the former orchard site.
The signs don't mince words, reading "Posted-Private Property. Hunting, fishing, trapping or trespassing for any purpose is strictly forbidden. Violators will be prosecuted."
Calls made to Ari Pollack, attorney for developers Pillsbury Realty Development, LLC, weren't returned on Tuesday and Wednesday.
But resident Mary Tetreau, spokesperson for the newly formed Save Woodmont Apple Trees (SWAT) group, said the peaceful rally would, for the most part, go on as planned this Sunday.
The rally will begin at 2 p.m. at the intersection of Pillsbury and Gilcreast roads, near the existing Woodmont Orchards sign.
Tetreau said the idea is to both raise awareness of the citizen's desire to have a 600-tree section of the property preserved as a public park, while allowing residents the chance to bid farewell to the 10,000 or so apple trees that will soon fall to make way for development.
A native of Lexington, Mass., Tetreau said she grew up in a household where action was valued over discussion.
"My father always told me if you care about something, you've got to do something about it," she said. "This isn't just about wanting a public park, this is really about preserving Londonderry's agricultural heritage."
As of Wednesday morning, Tetreau said she was uncertain just how many citizens would show up at the rally, but she's hoping to see "at least 100 people."
With the sign posing a concern for event organizers, Tetreau said the rally would most likely take place on the public sidewalk rather than inside the orchard as originally planned.
"The idea is to have a peaceful gathering," she added. "If we have to, we'll make some cardboard apple trees and we'll hug them on the sidewalks."
At the urging of her attorney, Allan Hoffman, Londonderry police were made aware of the event and an officer will be present to ensure peaceful proceedings on Sunday, Tetreau said.
Project officials for Woodmont Commons, a 300 acre town village project proposed for the former orchard site, said the project is expected to bring 3,600 more residents to Londonderry, along with 3,800 commuting employees once it hits its 20-year-buildout.
Earlier this summer, residents circulated a petition asking the town to guarantee their chance to speak and ask the developers to consider setting aside 19 acres of orchards along Gilcreast Road for use as a public park.
In mid-June, resident Jack Falvey spoke before the planning board about the proposal, with many nearby residents voicing their support for preserving a public park.
Falvey said this week the posted signs didn't discourage him, noting that "waving a red flag in front of a bull probably isn't the best public relations strategy."
In response, Falvey encouraged his fellow citizens to wear red shirts "to contrast the yellow 'No Trespassing' signs."
"Let's show this developer a bit of local color," he added.