by: JEFF MCDONALD  - Two giant sequoia trees stand tall above homes along a stretch of Newberg Highway in Woodburn. The trees could be removed as part of the Woodburn Interchange Project and replaced by a 13- to 18-foot sound wall. Neighbors are complaining that ODOT needs to find a way to protect the trees. Burt Carney is on a mission to save two significant sequoia trees in Woodburn.

The Woodburn resident and residents in The Estates neighborhood have joined forces to stop Oregon Department of Transportation from removing the trees as part of the Woodburn Interchange Project.

“Every person I’ve talked to is very sad to see those trees go,” said Carney, who drives by the trees at the east end of the interchange project on Highway 214. “It would be a shame to cut them down if there could be a slight modification to save them.”

ODOT had planned to remove the trees weeks ago as it shaved a long swath of trees outside residences along the Newberg Highway. The agency has put up temporary fencing in front of residences along the highway and plans to build a 13- to 18-foot sound wall in its place starting in April.

An arborist determined the trees needed to come down as part of the construction process, said Lou Torres, ODOT spokesman.

“We had a forester give his opinion on the impact of the sound walls and he said there is a risk of root damage,” Torres said. “The sound wall could impact the roots of the trees.”

ODOT had negotiated separate right-of-way agreements with the two neighbors whose property included the trees.

With the right-of-way process completed, ODOT was prepared to remove the trees.

But a group of local residents who live adjacent to the trees stopped the removal process.

The group, represented by City Councilor Jim Cox, an attorney who lives in The Estates neighborhood, reminded ODOT that it had to follow a city ordinance protecting significant tree removal.

The trees, which are at least 50 years old and four to five feet in diameter, fall under the city’s protected tree ordinance, Cox said. A “significant tree” is any tree two feet or more in diameter measured at five feet above ground level, according to the city.

“ODOT is playing hardball on this one,” he said. “We just want them to change the design a little bit. ‘No, it won’t work, it’s a matter of safety,’ is their fallback.”

ODOT has filed a “significant tree removal” application to gain permission to remove the tree.

Carney believes ODOT can find a better solution.

“I’m not a tree hugger guy, but I’m on a mini-crusade to save the trees,” he said. “This looks to me like they could make an adjustment in their plans.”

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