City of Riverside Wants Troublesome Trees Gone

Residents on Maplewood Place and Brentwood Avenue are trying to save the large ash trees that line their streets. Home owners, from left, April Glatzel, 42, Vern Goodwalt, 69, and Joe Deem, 54, are helping lead the charge to save the trees, which include this one that is trees more than 50 years old.

The Shamel ash trees on Brentwood Avenue and Maplewood Place tower over the homes and residents, creating a leafy tunnel of shade that residents want to preserve.

But some of the trees were topped improperly years ago, which allowed diseases in, stunting their growth in some cases and leading to large branches growing heavy and falling off.

The city wants to remove the troublesome trees and replace them with another kind, but homeowners are resisting.

They not only want the city to revive the ailing trees, they want better care for the healthy Shamel ash trees so they live as long as possible. Residents have banded together and hired the city’s urban forester from 1995 to 2005, David Roger, to aid their cause.

“We chose this neighborhood because of the trees,” said five-year resident Joe Deem.

“You’re glad to be home each night,” said 32-year resident Vern Goodwalt.

“With proper care, the weaker trees can be brought back and could last another 30-40 years — until they’re close to 100 years old”, Roger said.  “The city has a “clean and green” policy to be environmentally sensitive and should know that mature trees provide up to 60 times the environmental benefit — such as producing oxygen — of small trees”, he said.

“It takes 25 or 30 years for a 36-inch box tree to reach that level of benefit”, Roger said.

Shamel ash trees often grow to become problems, especially in parkways, where their roots push the sidewalks and driveways up.

“They’re just too big for that setting,” said Andrew Sanders, curator of the Herbarium at UC Riverside.

But on Brentwood and Maplewood, they are planted in large lawns that extend to the curb, where there aren’t any sidewalks. “This is an ideal setting for Shamel ash,” Roger said.

City officials said Shamel ash trees have been the source of claims filed by residents more often than any other kind of tree — for torn-up sidewalks and driveways, sewer pipes broken by the roots, and limbs that fall on houses and vehicles.

“They wreck everything,” Assistant City Manager Michael Beck said.

“Too many of them,” Mayor Ron Loveridge said. “Over time, they need to go.”

Councilman Mike Gardner, who represents the Wood Streets, is trying to craft a solution with the homeowners.

But if caring for the Shamel ash trees costs more than for other trees, it’s unfair to taxpayers who don’t have Shamel ash trees to make them subsidize the extra cost, he said.

Two options Gardner is exploring: deeding over the trees to the homeowners, who would take responsibility for them, or establishing an assessment district for the two streets to raise money for the additional cost of thorough care for the trees.

“The homeowners are open to discussing the assessment idea”, Goodwalt said.

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