Salem is a town that claims to care about trees. Yes, it's true that most people who live here are tree lovers. Unfortunately, there's a lengthy history of businesses and developers who treat trees really badly with few, if any, consequences.
Today's Statesman Journal has a story, "Illegal trimming destroys street trees at Gatti property, famous for holiday light display." There's plenty in the story by Tracy Loew that's infuriating. Like...
In an interview, Richard Gatti said he hired a contractor to do general work around the properties, and asked him to tidy up the trees, which were blocking the sidewalk as well as views of the lights.
...Unfortunately, Gatti didn’t notify the city, get a permit, hire a licensed tree service, or specify exactly what should be done.
“Do I know that we’re not supposed to be trimming their trees without approval? I suppose I knew that, but I thought, well, I was doing mine,” Gatti said. “It cost me quite a bit of money. I wasn’t wanting to put the burden on the city.”
...Tree topping, also called heading or tipping, is the removal of a majority of a tree’s branches. It’s one of the worst things one can do to a tree, according to the Oregon Department of Forestry.
...Salem code states that trimming or removing a city-owned tree without a permit can bring a fine of up to $2,000 per occurrence, plus the cost of the trees.
In this case, the city will not fine the Gattis, but will require them to remove the topped trees and replace them, city spokeswoman Kathy Ursprung said.
UPDATE: Today, January 27, I got an email from Ursprung that said: "I was misquoted in the Statesman Journal regarding this case. I don’t have all the details at this point, but Mr. Gatti is expected to be fined."
Wow. Richard Gatti knew he shouldn't trim street trees on public property without getting approval from the city. He didn't use a licensed tree service. He didn't tell the contractor what to do.
If this behavior doesn't end up with Gatti paying a big fine from the City of Salem, then city officials should give up any claim to being dedicated to protecting Salem's trees.
This sort of needless tree destruction has been going on for many years. It has to stop.
Making people who trash street trees pay for the full cost of replacing the trees with comparable ones of the same size would send a message that the City of Salem is serious about protecting public property in the form of valuable street trees.
I've seen an estimate on Facebook by a certified arborist that the value of the trees Gatti destroyed could be over $75,000. So there's no way Gatti should get off with a $2,000 fine per tree -- though even that would be more than the zero fine that the city spokeswoman said would be levied.
Here's links to some of the blog posts I've written previously about the crappy way Salem treats its trees. I look forward to not having to write any more.
Outrage: the true story of Salem's U.S. Bank tree killings
Truth Bomb #3: City of Salem kills trees for no good reason
More beautiful trees in downtown Salem cut down for no good reason
Black Walnut deaths point to more Salem tree dysfunction