In a park known for its beautiful and stately trees, no one enjoys seeing those trees removed. Yet with a dozen tall Douglas firs falling to chain saws in Shute Park this week, city officials worked to make the best of the situation — in more ways than one.

The trees, which are located along Maple Street next to the Shute Park Library, are being taken out in a Hillsboro Public Works Department project for two primary reasons: First, according to Terrill Collier, master arborist for Clackamas-based Collier Arbor Care, a fungus has been attacking some of the park’s fir trees. According to the arborist’s extensive 2009 report to the city, the type of fungus disease found in some of the trees at Shute Park cuts roots off from nutrients and/or decays the tree trunk, weakening the trees and making them more susceptible to decay from additional diseases, pine beetles and other problems.

The fungus, which cannot be cured, slowly weakens and eventually kills the infected trees.

“A majority of the trees coming out do have a fungal disease and would be coming out eventually anyway,” said Mary Loftin, community resources manager for Hillsboro’s Parks & Recreation Department.

Further, with the ongoing reconstruction of the Shute Park Library, some of the trees are in the way of planned enhancements to the sidewalks along Maple Street that lead to and from the library. The sidewalks — from Southeast Eighth Avenue to Southeast 10th Avenue — are being widened from 6 feet wide to 8 feet, leaving no room for some of the big trees.

“We’re committed to widening that sidewalk,” explained Loftin. “That’s a very dark and narrow corridor. It’s a safety issue as much as anything else.”

As part of the improvements, new LED lighting will go in to provide better illumination on the sidewalks fronting the park.

Despite the condition of some of the trees and the planned improvements to the area, not everyone was sold on the need for the trees to come down.

“It’s really sad. They are really beautiful old trees, and they keep taking them out,” said Suzanne Ebert, who lives just around the block from Shute Park. “It’s a shame to lose them. I get upset because they tell us they are done taking trees out, and then a few months later they take out a whole bunch more.”

Ebert said she has lived near Shute Park for the past eight years, and enjoys strolling among the tall firs.

“When the weather is nice, the park is part of my daily walk,” said Ebert, who questioned whether the root fungus was the main reason the trees are coming out.

“That’s what they claim, but I don’t know the real reason. The trees seem pretty solid,” she said. “I’ve seen a lot of trees come out of there in the time we’ve lived here. They also took out some really beautiful oak trees that were next to the library.”

Loftin pointed out that the 13.4-acre park has about 600 trees of all sizes, adding that the Douglas firs will be replaced with new trees that will not be susceptible to the fungal disease.

“As the bigger trees come down, we’re replacing them,” said Loftin. “We typically plant six trees for every one coming out.”

The new trees will go in after the library reconstruction project is completed in spring 2014.

According to Loftin, there is one other unique aspect to the overall project. She said the city is not simply falling the trees and turning them into firewood, but instead will haul many of the logs to the Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve, where they will be placed in the water to provide basking perches for native turtles. The logs are intended to entice turtles to make their home in the wetlands area.

Loftin said turtles are currently found in the Tualatin River, which borders Jackson Bottom, but they have not established themselves in the wetlands itself.

“That’s why we’re excited about this,” Loftin said. “The logs will help us bring those turtles from the Tualatin River to our wetland.”

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