For those of us who live on or close to 14th, we are already experiencing the changes that have come with constructing Gemenskap (Yuh-MEN-skawp) park. Jansen, Inc. has been onsite this past week and have seemed very helpful and easy for members of the community to approach, so that’s a good start.
One very noticeable thing that Jansen did this week was to post signs on 12 trees that will be removed along the east side of 14th. This amounts to ALL of the trees on the east side except for the large maple between 59th and 60th. This came as a shock to many in the neighborhood, since, at face value, it doesn’t make sense to remove green living things in order to create new green space.
Removing existing trees
We dove into the engineering drawings and spoke to the Parks Department to help see the bigger picture around the tree plan for the park. We took a look at the drawings and confirmed that the 12 trees that are currently marked for removal are the ones listed on the drawings. These include 11 Kwanzan cherry trees and 1 big leaf maple. We spoke with the parks department and they confirmed that in Feb, 2012, an SDOT arborist assessed the trees. The arborist advised that all of the cherry trees are infected with cherry bark tortrix (CBT) which is an invasive insect that feeds on the bark and girdles the tree leaving it open to other infestations. Nine of these cherry trees were rated low retention value and two were rated moderate by the arborist. Also note that Kwanzan cherries have a short life expectancy of 15-25 years, and these trees, according to the Seattle Street Tree Map, have been here since at least 1991. The big leaf maple that is slated for removal was identified as a high risk tree and removal was encouraged. The other maple was identified as healthy and will be retained. The multi-use path in the park will be designed with paving to accommodate the tree and root system.
Replacing with new trees
Diving into the drawings again, we have identified that the 12 trees being removed will be replaced with 24 new trees: 1 Yellowwood, 1 Scarlet Oak, 2 Frontier Elm, 2 Black Tupelo, and 17 Serviceberry. All but the Serviceberries will be 4-inch caliper size (about 14 ft tall) when planted, and should grow to around 40-50 ft when mature. The Serviceberries will be planted in the rain gardens. They are listed in the drawing as shrubs, but are considered by Parks to be small trees. They will be 6 ft tall when planted and grow to around 10 ft when mature.
The big picture
The initial impact of losing the existing tree canopy will feel significant, both during construction and while the trees mature, but many factors were taken into consideration within the context of the overall design. Some of these factors include the health and age of the existing trees and their existing placement with respect to the new 12 ft wide multi-use path that will replace the existing sidewalk. When selecting new trees the designers were also sensitive to the community’s input for flowering trees. Although we will be losing the spring blossoms from the cherries, the new trees were selected for their spring flowering nature and many will have beautiful colors in the fall.