Proposed removal of trees causes outrage in Yellow Springs

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Proposed removal of trees causes outrage in Yellow Springs

A streetscape revitalization plan that calls for the removal of about a dozen 35-year-old Bradford pear trees from the heart of downtown has created a stir.

Protesters staged a demonstration a week ago and recently addressed village council who will next discuss the issue in August.

Village artists have tied writings about the value of trees to several of the trees that may meet the ax.

“Only when the last tree has died and the last river been poisoned and the last fish been caught will we realize we cannot eat money,” one message, supposedly taken from an Native American proverb, says.

Knitted rainbow colored tree covers attached to the trees as part of the village’s first Gay right parade have remained as part of the protest.

Some villagers want the trees removed and replaced with a native species.

“It is a lot of turmoil and expense that is unnecessary,” said retired villager Steve Hetzler, who moved back to Yellow Springs two years ago from California.

A project cost estimate was not available.

Still other villagers support the revitalization to be revisited by village council on Aug 6. They say the trees are Bradfords are invasive and dangerous and their roots have caused Xenia Avenue’s sidewalks to buckle and crumble.

Dino’s Cappuccinos manager Eric Brown said he’s seen several people fall in front of his business after tripping on the raised sidewalk. An ambulance was called after a woman injured her head a few years ago, he said.

“The streets are a mess,” Brown said. “They (the Bradford pears) are going to be replaced with trees that don’t bow the streets.”

The project has created much debate in the village of nearly 3,500.

Tree removal supporters Andrew Kline and Alex Melamed said nearly everyone wants to weigh in.

“You are in Yellow Springs,” Kline said. “Everyone has an opinion.”

The plan first presented to council June 4, calls for the replacement of sidewalks on the east side of Xenia Avenue as well as the burial of power lines and the replacement of streetlights with railroad theme pedestrian-scale lighting.

Councilwoman Karen Wintrow said 11 existing trees on the east side of Xenia and 2 on the west side would be removed. Eight new trees would be planted on the east side and 12 on the west side. The east side would be replaced this year and the west side completed in 2013. Two sycamore trees near the BP gas station will not be affected.

Wintrow said recently appointed Village Manager Laura Curliss proposed the downtown upgrades as an extension of a sidewalk work Lamont Excavating started on another section of Xenia Avenue in May.

She said there clearly should have been better communication and dialogue with villagers.

“That’s not the way things are done here,” Wintrow said. “We are a very deliberate community.”

Still she said the trees should be removed.

“These trees aren’t healthy trees,” Wintrow added.

Asanda Imports co-owner Molly Lunde said she likes watching the Bradford pears bloom in spring.

“When the wind blows it looks like it is snowing,” she said. “I think they are lovely.”

That said, Lunde has come to believe Bradford pear trees -like honeysuckle - are invasive species and these should be removed.

“Any shift is always difficult for people to go along with, but I don’t think it (change) is always a bad thing,” she said. “It makes sense to do it while we are having the sidewalks replaced.”

Introduced from China as root stock for ornamental pears and used heavily in landscaping, Bradfords, also known as Callery pear, are now considered invasive by the Ohio State Extension and other agencies.

It is clear however that village leaders will have a hard time convincing some residents of that.

Resident Sharon Mohler said alternatives to removing the trees should be explored and citizens should be involved in the process.

She doubted that native trees would cause less damage than the Bradfords. Repairing the streets and removing the trees as they die and replacing them with smaller plants like trumpet vines might be the answer, she said.

Mohler also took offense with the notion that Bradfords are invasive.

“It is (not) very nice of people to call another species invasive,” she said. “There is no greater invasive species than people.”

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