WSDOT To Kill Hundreds of Trees, But Don’t You Try To Remove Even One

Taking down a tree on your own property is not an easy task, not when government is involved, it isn’t. A couple of years back, we wanted to remove a cherry tree from our front yard. It was actually out on the parking strip and was suffering from some kind of tree disease. Or maybe it was old age. In any case, the thing needed to come down.

But, of course, we couldn’t just take a saw and have at it. Oh no, for Seattle City Ordinance No. 90047 requires that “all persons who prune and/or remove privately maintained trees within the public right-of-way area obtain a street use permit.”

A “privately maintained tree” is defined as “any tree found growing within the public right-of-way area that has not been planted or is being maintained by the City of Seattle.” It is the City Arborist office who issues the permit, which cost us $101, and the work must be done according to the Seattle Department of Transportation’s Tree Pruning Guidelines, which requires that all contracted work be performed by a “qualified tree service company.”

So we called Deborah Brown, the city’s arboriculturist, who came by a week or so later and determined that yes in fact our world-weary tree had seen better days -- that it was time to chop it down and send it off to tree heaven.

The reason I mention this, is that today I see that the Washington State Department of Transportation has decided to cut down 500 trees along Interstate 5, between Lakewood and Lacey. Why? So they can improve sight lines for new state traffic cameras. How great is that!?

As the Tacoma News Tribune reports, that seven closed-circuit TV cameras will be installed along 14 miles of I-5. The trees will be removed starting March 24 and continue for three weeks. The Department of Transportation says all the trees are in the department’s right of way. What a pity.

Department of Transportation landscape architect Ed Winkley says most of the trees to set to meet their maker are little Douglas firs, 4 inches to 2 feet in diameter.

But WSDOT won’t be needing to call Deborah Brown – or anyone else for that matter.

Final note: When we the “qualified” tree service company did at last come to chop down our sick cherry trees, someone passing by in our Queen Anne yelled out, “Tree killers!”

Look for him, maybe he’ll be down in Lakewood next week. With 500 trees on the chopping block, he’ll have a field day.

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