Monday, July 6, 2009

Before and After the City & Battelle cut down the trees

If you want to get an idea of how 3rd Ave looked before the city, at the request of Battelle's contractors, wiped out all the trees on the north side of 3rd between Perry and the river, go to Google Maps and put in 328 W. 3rd Ave., Columbus, OH. Rotate the image until you are looking West.

Now, compare with the picture below, taken 10 minutes ago.

I may not be able to stop it, but I sure won't be happy (or quiet) about it...

If, like me you enjoyed the early spring drive down West Third Avenue between Perry and Olentangy River Road and the gorgeous pear trees in bloom:The lovely view out our living room window as a case in point:

Then perhaps you will join me in mourning the loss of "our" trees this morning to a city/Batelle sidewalk repair project. From inside our house early this morning we heard lots of "landcaping" or yard work sounding noise, but did not bother ot investigate. When Eric walked out on the front porch to take his bike to work we determined the source of the sounds:

City of Columbus workers were (are as I type) chainsawing down the trees and tossing them in a (very loud) chipper. It seemed fundamentally wrong to be so (in my opinion) carelessly cutting down what I imagine are 20 year old arbors. We'd noticed last week that the concrete was torn our next to each tree and they were marked with blue "x"es. "Our" tree before 10 a.m.:

I put in a couple phone calls to the mayor's action hotline when we noticed last week but did not receive a response. I guess I got one this morning. I immediately placed calls to everyone I could think of who might be able to help/provide answers: a couple people in the mayor's office who live in Harrison West and the president of the Harrison West Society. The tree-felling gentlemen were kind enough to cease and desist at the tree in front of our house until I could get some answers. I spoke to several individuals at the Recreation and Parks Department Forestry Division from the receptionist to leaving messages for the Head Forester and several others.
Ultimately it came down to said explanation (bear with me as I'm an amateur): the utilities topped off the trees badly last year (that was evident in their lopsidedness, but they otherwise appeared healthy so I'm lost as to how this is a factor in the tree's demise); the "property owner" (presumably Battelle) is required to maintain the sidewalks and the tree roots were interfering with the sidewalk concrete; the "property owner" hired a contractor to replace the sidewalk sections in question; contractor determines that the tree roots need to be ground down/cut for level sidewalks; it is feared that once the roots are cut the pear trees will die anyways so the City is removing the pear trees.
Alas, the tree "after" 10 a.m.:

My frantic calls this morning were only good enough to stave off the action for about 1/2 an hour. They did get me a conversation with Alan McKnight, head of Columbus Recreation and Parks Division. He said he would "work with the community" to get the trees replaced but could offer no timeline for this to happen (and with the current budget crisis forgive me if I'm not holding my breath). It also warranted a visit to my front door by Jim Long (I'm just guessing here as his shirt was embroidered with "Jim" and that was one of the individuals I was attempting to contact) that was merely the signal that the work was about to resume. Jim kindly explained that it was "necessary" to remove the trees as once the roots were cut (and the roots had not been touched yet) the trees would likely die. Just moving on down the line:

All of this is supposedly happening at the request of the "property owner's contractor" and has the approval of the Columbus Division of Forestry. Mr. Long's repeated use of the phrase "it's the cost of doing business" did very little to quell my dismay at losing a row of 6 beautiful mature trees. According to "Jim", supposedly the City would be willing to replace the trees. Supposedly they could do so without the permission of the "property owner" as the City technically owns the right of way. He says this to make me feel better before outrightly admitting that the city would not do so without the approval of the property owner as the care of new trees requires lots of watering, etc. that the City would expect said property owner to assume.
The chipper makes quick work of 20 year old trees:
During my multiple conversations with City representatives I inquire how it is possible that the City would just come in and clear cut a row of trees in a neighborhood with an active Harrison West Society and a neighborhood action plan that includes little details like, you know, mature trees lining the streets. Both representatives reinforced that the notion that the City would bother to inform neighborhood groups of actions like tree removal just wasn't going to happen (but we weren't talking ONE sick tree here people- you just took out an avenue's worth). And by 11 a.m. it was done. 120 years worth of tree growth systematically removed by the City "as the cost of doing business". Do me a favor, call Alan McKnight and ask him when we get "our" trees back. He can be reached at 645-3310.