During the wet season, some neighbors become sick of sycamores

Trees have garnered complaints, boosters in one neighborhood

By Susan Abe, Columbian staff writer

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In the summer, they provide ample shade. In the fall, they bring warm colors to the east Vancouver streets.

In the winter and other wet months? Well, according to some complaints fielded by the Cascade Highlands Neighborhood Association, sycamore trees can be a nuisance.

Several residents have complained to Cascade Highlands Neighborhood Association Chairwoman Jean Kent about the twigs and leaves clogging streets in this neighborhood west of Southeast 164th Avenue and bounded by Mill Plain and McGillivray boulevards.

There are about 100 sycamores in the Cascade Highlands neighborhood.

Leaves fall more persistently in the winter and spring months when a certain disease plagues many of the majestic sycamores, large trees known for their wide canopies. Called anthracnose, the disease causes the trees to drop more leaves and smaller twigs -- and wet weather exacerbates the process, said Charles Ray, Vancouver’s urban forester.

Some residents living near the trees aren’t happy about the mess. The problem is twofold, Kent explains: First, the tree roots have interfered with some house foundations, “although this is a rare situation,” she said. Second, it’s hard to keep up with cleaning up all the leaves.

So far, the issue hasn’t had a far-reaching effect on the neighborhood, she said. No trees have had to be removed.

“There was some discussion with a few individuals about removing the affected trees and replacing them with another species, but the trees are not in any way a danger and the problem is merely one of maintenance, not safety,” Kent said by email.

Many benefits

Not all people see the trees as pesky.

Some neighbors, like arbor enthusiast Erika Johnson, see the benefits of the sycamores. Also the Friends of Trees volunteer coordinator, Johnson listed off a few perks: The trees along the roadways are known to slow traffic because they narrow a driver’s field of vision. Also, mature trees on private property increase the value of the home because of their aesthetics.

“It just seems like you’re going to get people who are pro tree and people who see” the messy pitfalls, she said.

Budget cuts

The trees’ upkeep used to be handled by the city of Vancouver. Kent said city workers would come two or three times a season to spruce up the sycamores on public property -- but severe budget cuts have stymied their resources, so the job rested on residents’ shoulders.

The neighborhood has organized three cleanup events over the past year, when residents banded together to clean up the streets and yards.

Both Kent and Ray say they are open to answering residents’ questions about trees and addressing concerns as they move forward.

“It’s a wonderful species and we don’t want to condemn them for a disease,” Ray said.

Laura McVicker: www.twitter.com/col_courts;www.facebook.com/reportermcvicker;laura.mcvicker@columbian.com; 360-735-4516.