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Parks, Trees and Trails talks tree maintenance

By Sarah Brown
Lebanon Local

Tree maintenance issues were at the center of a Parks, Trees and Trails Advisory Committee meeting Wednesday, Feb. 15.
Public Works Operations Manager Jason Rush addressed a complaint from Linda Ziedrich about trees in front of her house that had been damaged by improper city-staff trimming. She submitted a letter and photographs to the city and formally announced her complaint during the Lebanon City Council’s Feb. 8 meeting.
In her letter, she said that a professional company had attended to the trees in the past and only “neatly trimmed one small branch or two.” However, she continued, city staff cut larger branches that weren’t in violation of city regulations.
“My husband walked around the neighborhood and found that many trees in the area have been butchered,” she wrote. “The kind of damage these employees are doing can lead to disease, insect infestations and imbalance that can kill trees, cost the public money and make for an uglier city in the future.”
Ziedrich implored the city to hire a professional arborist or train employees in proper tree care.
“We talked to our crews, and there really was no excuse for it,” Rush said. “It was bad tree work. We’ve talked with them, and we’ve done some more training.”
Staff members manage about 1,000 trees annually, he said, adding that they hang door signs in advance where they intend to work on trees and shrubs that encroach rights-of-way. These signs inform homeowners that they’re welcome to do their own trimming by notifying the city.
“What we’ve been doing in the past is taken the trims back to the trunk and kind of making it better for us so we didn’t have to go back year after year and do the same cut,” Rush said. “After this, we’ve reevaluated that and we’re just going to be doing the bare minimum of what our ordinance says.”
Committee members Dave Workman and Rick Barnett said they examined the trees in question and agreed they were poorly done, but only on a couple that were smaller than they appeared to be in the photos.
Rush also reported on three trees recommended for removal for safety reasons in the vicinity of Mayfly, Robbins Way and Tangent Street based on homeowner complaints. Homeowners, however, are responsible for sidewalk replacement.
“We don’t go looking for (trees needing removal),” Rush said. “(Complaints) come to us and we evaluate them and look at them on a case-by-case basis.”
He said roots from a large tree at 557 Tangent St. have damaged the curb and street. The city will cover those repair costs.

In other business:
♦ The committee continued a discussion about benches first addressed at the Jan. 8 meeting by committee member Rod Sell on behalf of Build Lebanon Trails. BLT volunteer Thad Nelson told the committee that the organization likes to place benches on trails every 1,000 feet.
“Knowing how many elderly people and people with walkers and so forth use the benches, we think it’s important that the benches have backs on them,” he said.
Non-BLT benches either have no backs or occupy areas difficult for disabled people to access. Nelson noted that three backless benches at Cheadle Lake were not on concrete pads and that a bench at River Park sat on a slope he believed was too precarious for the disabled to navigate.
Nelson said BLT requests that the city consider standardizing future bench installations, with supportive backs, for placement on accessible concrete pads;
♦ Committee member and BLT volunteer Jan Diamantine started an update report by thanking city staff for clearing out overgrowth at Cheadle Lake and for fixing asphalt on the North Shore Trail.
Joann Nelson discussed the organization’s effort to acquire Georgia Pacific-owned property near River Park. A company contact told Nelson she would work to help BLT accomplish its goal.
Diamantine asked City Manager Nancy Brewer for an update on cost estimates and plans for trail improvements at Riverview Park and Gill’s Landing. Brewer replied that staff have been too busy to address the issue. She asked BLT to prioritize projects so staff can work on them efficiently.
Engineering Services Director Ron Whitlatch reiterated Brewer’s message, saying that staff are working on four different trail segments and can’t add more to their workload. He said a survey is underway at Gill’s Landing for the improvements, and that staff are also working on the West River Trail, the Airport Road multi-use path and South Shore Trail.
♦ Diamantine reported that BLT planned to celebrate Earth Day April 22 by mulching trees at three parks;
♦ The committee heard from Master Gardener Sheryl Casteen, who manages the Porter Park community garden. She reported that she teaches basic gardening to first- and second-year medical students, who provide a community service by weeding, composting and assisting her with programs. She hosts meetings and training sessions, teaches various garden topics and hosts park walks for the community.
Outside the park’s fencing, Casteen maintains a blueberry garden and will be installing an apple orchard and native plants for bee pollination.
Casteen also described annual vandalism and theft at the park, saying that a private teacher used to bring her students until canceling her program due to lost or damaged food and plants. Casteen asked that a taller fence be installed, larger than the current four-foot-high barrier. She said she’d be willing to place a location outside the fence for gardeners to donate unwanted fruits and vegetables.