City officials have vowed not to take any more trees out of the downtown landscape until they've come up with a long-range plan for tree replacement.
The decision comes after business owners decried the loss of about 20 trees on 5th Street west of Main.
"While we're developing these plans we're really going to try not to cut any more trees," said city manager Justin Clifton. "The exception is going to be dying trees that are hazardous, and we do have some of those."
In other areas where there are concerns about heaving, damaged sidewalks, city crews will experiment with infrastructure replacements such as bumpouts and ramping to determine what works and what doesn't.
One of the ideas the city is experimenting with is a 4x4-foot concrete planter. The planter was placed outside Westminster Hall prior to the city council meeting July 16 so councilmembers could see what it looks like.
"I hate it," was councilmember Robert Jurca's immediate reaction. His objection was based primarily on the placement of the temporary planter. He was assured the planters would be placed more thoughtfully so they're not in danger of being hit by cars pulling into diagonal parking slots. Sidewalk width is also a consideration. Not all downtown sidewalks are wide enough to accommodate the four-foot planter and still leave room for pedestrians.
Parks director Paul Suppes explained the sample on display was made by a local contractor at a cost of $520 (compared to $600 to $800, plus shipping, from other sources). A tree three inches in diameter will run about $150, he said. Manpower is also a consideration. The trees currently in the ground rely on groundwater; trees in the planters will have to be watered by hand.
Twenty years ago when the trees were first planted in the ground, Suppes said a drip irrigation system was used. That system is no longer in place.
The city is currently conducting an inventory of all downtown trees. Suppes said the initial count shows 166 trees on Main from 1st to 12th plus one block east and west. Of those 166 trees, 122 have caused minor to major damage to the sidewalks.
"We intend to plot all trees and the damage to sidewalks as to severity and long-term usefulness," Suppes said. "With that information we can build a long-term plan for tree removal and sidewalk repairs that the budget can handle."
The last tree inventory was conducted in 1998, Suppes added.
The ideal solution will be a mix of small and large, young and old trees, to avoid the situation the city is currently facing — a mature landscape consisting of trees that are all approximately the same age. The majority of those trees were planted 20-plus years ago, and at the time were projected to live just 8 to 10 years, city manager Justin Clifton said.
"Now the general public is accustomed to a mature canopy downtown," he said. "At some point we have to start replacing the larger trees."
He said city staff understands the trees are an important part of what makes downtown beautiful and vibrant. But the cost to the infrastructure, in terms of sidewalk repairs and replacements, threatens to strain the city budget. The city would like to see some "buy-in" from downtown property owners. The question is one of "Who benefits the most?"
"I do think that planter is large and feels obstructive," Clifton said, but even small trees need that much growing space. "If it's a nuisance, we should take that idea off the table but we won't know that until we move it around and get some feedback."
That feedback will fuel additional discussion.
"If we don't like the planters, where can we plant trees in the ground?" Clifton asked. "If we like the planters, where will they fit?"blog comments powered by Disqus