What's Up With That? Even beloved trees can be in the wrong place

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I was just reading your (Aug. 8) article about the London plane (hybrid sycamore) trees causing allergies in some people in the VanMall area, but that they cannot be removed because "the city's tree preservation ordinance implemented in 1996 protects them." Driving west down Northeast 51st Street from Thurston the other day, I noticed many beautiful maples and other green-leaf trees lining the sidewalk had been removed. They've been there for more than 13 years. What a travesty! Who gave the orders to remove them? And why?

— Sandra Tremmel, Van Mall

Charles Ray, Vancouver's urban forester and a big fan of trees, had this to say by email: "The city of Vancouver strives to protect and preserve healthy, mature trees from unnecessary removal or destruction. Healthy trees reduce stormwater runoff, increase property values, enhance the livability of our neighborhoods and more."

But, Ray pointed out, the key to healthy, thriving trees is planting them in the right place and giving them the right care and pruning.

"We recognize … that there are cases where tree removal may ultimately become an unavoidable or necessary option. For a variety of reasons, sometimes the wrong tree is in the wrong spot," he said.

"In this case, the Bold Estates Homeowners Association approached the city for a permit to remove street trees that were too large for the 4-foot planting strip, had been planted too close together and were continuing to grow and crowd," Ray said. "Over the years, the HOA had made multiple attempts to fix the sidewalks and deal with the problems. Urban Forestry worked with the HOA to help find options that could ultimately maximize future growth of our urban tree canopy."

This fall, Ray said, the removed trees will be replaced with new and more site-appropriate trees that can grow and thrive "with the least amount of future conflicts."

— Scott Hewitt