Oregon City officials have confirmed that neither a permit nor an arborist's report preceded the removal of a cherry tree in Barclay Park this summer, an incident that came around the same time as two other trees illegally removed from city property at the direction of city staff.
Oregon City has become compliant with its own municipal code by applying for tree-removal permits retroactively, and potential $303 fines for non-compliance so far have never been issued even for various cases involving the general public. City officials didn't seek an expert opinion for the tree at Barclay Park, although municipal code calls for an arborist report before cutting down public trees.
Oregon City Community Service Director Phil Lewis explained that parks staff had observed the cherry tree as dead and didn't think a permit was needed, as it appeared that each of the three stems under the split tree were under 6 inches diameter, when measured at 4.5 feet high off the ground.
"Due to an abundance of caution we've retroactively procured a permit for the removal and to document the mitigation trees that will be replanted," Lewis said.
Oregon City officials had earlier in the month acknowledged their mistake after an arborist had provided options for saving a white oak and black walnut near the municipal swimming pool. City employees failed to follow their own city code by neglecting to obtain the required permits prior to paying a contractor $7,850 to cut down the two large trees on city property. Although the city paid an additional $1,750 for arborist reports recommending ways to save the trees, Oregon City officials decided to remove them, citing previous experience with falling trees.
Lewis has said that parks staff have since undergone retraining to ensure compliance with Oregon City municipal code. He assured the public that they have received clear direction to obtain permits prior to future tree removals.
"Oregon City parks staff does not take the removal of trees lightly in our parks system, but do need to complete tree work periodically for the safety of community members," Lewis said.
Lewis said the city will be replanting trees at Barclay Park and multiple parks across its parks system. Last year, 81 trees were planted in Oregon City's more than 20 parks, and four tree plantings are planned at the swimming pool in an effort to replace the two old trees that were logged there.
Ruth Williams, an arborist with Davey Resource Group contracted by the city to assess a tree at the swimming pool in July, said the black walnut species generally is tolerant to construction impacts, including cutting roots to rebuild a sidewalk. She had also recommended that the city keep the white oak by pruning dead branches and fencing off its area of the lawn for safety.
McLoughlin Neighborhood Association members have recommended changes to city code in a resolution adopted Sept. 5. At some point in October, MNA Chair Cameron McCredie says the neighborhood will officially submit its call for the development and adoption of a public tree code in Oregon City that provides for "adequate protection" for public trees.
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