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home : current news : current news August 18, 2017

3/11/2014 1:37:00 PM
City cuts trees in park
By Jim Cornelius
News Editor

Cutting down trees is almost always a big deal in Sisters.

Sometimes property owners have to cut trees to develop their property; sometimes trees are cut to maintain healthy stands or to remove hazards. Meanwhile, a broad cross-section of community members want to see trees preserved wherever for their aesthetic, ecological, and spiritual value.

Sisters is proud of its Tree City U.S.A. designation, achieved in 2008.

When politics enters in, anyone cutting trees can run into a buzzsaw of public opinion - as the City of Sisters has discovered a couple of times in recent months.

With tensions high over a proposal to renovate the overnight campground at Creekside Park, some citizens were alarmed to discover that Sisters' public works department had cut more than two-dozen trees. Assumption and implication led some to conclude that the City had jumped the gun and begun cutting trees for the project before the controversial plan had been approved.

That's not what happened, according to Public Works Director Paul Bertagna.

Work crews cut a large number of juniper trees and a handful of small ponderosas in a thinning and maintenance operation.

City code specifically protects only "significant trees." Junipers are not considered "significant trees" under city code, which reads: "Individual ponderosa pines with a trunk diameter of eight inches or greater as measured 4.5 feet above the ground shall be identified as significant."

Other trees can be individually designated as "heritage trees" by virtue of site, rarity, historical significance, etc.

Bertagna said the handful of ponderosas was cut because stands were too dense. As for some of the large junipers, Bertagna said they were cut where they were deemed to be competing with ponderosa pines.

"They're sucking water from the big pine trees," he said. "They're sucking water to the tune of five times what a pondo drinks."

The felling crew did not cut all of the junipers in the area.

"We actually left a couple of junipers in there because the spacing was decently good, away from the pondos," Bertagna said.

Bertagna said that the cutting had nothing to do with the proposed renovation of the park, and all the trees slated for removal in the plan are currently still standing.

Most folks understand the need to cut some trees for forest health, and no one complains when trees are cut because they pose a threat to buildings and people - a scenario that was brought home with a crash at the Ski Inn earlier this winter.

But many locals grow alarmed when numbers of trees are cut at once, whether it's done by city crews or by private landowners.

Local naturalist Jim Anderson, who is currently engaged in a project to erect nesting boxes around town, would like to see the City come up with a written plan for tree removal so that the community knows what is going on and so that habitat concerns can be raised.

"Without a written plan, who knows - habitat may fall to the seat-of-the-pants whims of the guy with the power saw," he said. "Before you crank up the power saw, tell us what's going on."

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