Losing trees in Sisters Country

 

Last updated 12/19/2023 at 10:16am



Sisters has lost two mighty ponderosa pines, one at Sisters Woodlands Development.

And one by a tree poacher, in the Deschutes National Forest behind Crossroads. Click here to see related story.

We know who is responsible for the first loss, at the corner of Pine Street and West Sisters Park Drive. Sisters Woodlands Development, which states it is committed to saving as many trees as it possibly can, mysteriously felled one of the largest ponderosa pines on its 35-acre site last month. This approximately 42-inch DBH (diameter at breast height) massive and healthy tree was one that the developers themselves had marked for preservation at the time that the original Sisters Woodlands concept was approved.

Efforts to save the tree were futile due to the unilateral action taken by the developer.

The City and the developer had been in active discussions about possibly getting a variance approved in light of the developers’ now-detailed building plans under consideration with the City regarding builds on lots #104 and #103. The variance would have created more space for the tree.

What happened here? The City of Sisters was taken by surprise when in early November it discovered the tree had been taken down. Someone driving by spotted the massive tree laying on its side. The City could do nothing more to save the tree in question, and the very modest penalty that was subsequently imposed on the developers for taking it down was not commensurate with the extreme loss to the community of Sisters. A ponderosa pine tree of its age, size. and prominence simply cannot be replaced in our lifetimes, nor in our children’s lifetime. The tree is estimated to have been 200-300 years old.

In my conversation with Kevin Eckert of Build LLC, master plan designer for the owners of Sisters Woodlands, he expressed extreme regret over the loss of the tree but stated various reasons why it was taken down: It would have been too close to the foundation of the nearest home, which would have been stressful on the tree, and perhaps cause its ultimate weakening and demise in the years to come. At that future time, it would have been challenging and expensive to cut down the dead or mortally diseased or damaged tree. Subsequently the root system beneath the foundation would slowly decompose and earth could settle, perhaps causing issues with the foundation of the residence that would require expensive repairs in the future.

The tree itself had a damaged top, he stated (this is not unusual with older ponderosas who have survived for centuries). It had big heavy branches that could be a hazard if they came down. It’s just plain hard on a tree to build so close to it.

While all of these seem to be reasonable considerations, all of them were apparent from the project’s inception, when it was decided which trees to preserve and which to log, where homes and industrial buildings would be sited and where not. When asked about this, and also about the possibility of just not building on this particular very visible corner or pursuing the other possible tree-saving solution, giving the City a chance to get a variance run through the approval process, he stated that waiting “up to 8 months” to get both the Planning Commission and City Council to approve the variance was not the choice they decided to go with due to the potential time delay.

Per The Nugget’s article August 24, 2021, “Sisters Woodlands marking trees for preservation” by Jim Cornelius: “Among the trees that will be preserved are five very large ponderosa pines, including a 58-inch diameter pondo that is believed to be the oldest tree in Sisters.” https://www.nuggetnews.com/story/2021/08/24/news/sisters-woodlands-marking-trees-for-preservation/32331.html.

It is believed the huge ponderosa that was felled on Pine Street last month was among those top five.

 

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