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Forest Hill tree removal plan causes neighborhood turmoil

Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013 9:55 PM
Last updated Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013 2:14 AM
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Forest Hills might lose another Darlington Oak, the prized evergreens whose sprawling canopies helped earn the subdivision a reputation as one of Augusta’s most charming residential areas.

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A 60-foot-tall Darlington Oak tree, which can live up to 90 years, stands at 3035 Park Avenue in the Forest Hills community. There are plans to have the tree removed, which has angered some neighborhood residents.   SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
A 60-foot-tall Darlington Oak tree, which can live up to 90 years, stands at 3035 Park Avenue in the Forest Hills community. There are plans to have the tree removed, which has angered some neighborhood residents.

This week, a city-owned, 60-foot-tall Darlington Oak tree on Park Avenue with limbs that span nearly 40 yards, and that has offered year-round shade to residents for 85 years, was marked for removal by the Augusta Engineering Department.

The reason remains vague, residents say.

At first, orange tape appeared around the trunk of the tree with a notice that the “tree interferes with the development of public property.” Later, the document was changed to say the “tree is hazardous, i.e. contains decay, extensive deadwood or other structural problems.”

The change came after two Forest Hills homeowners said they wanted to demolish a brick retaining wall and put in a circle driveway, construction of which would damage the oak’s root system beyond repair.

“It was really fishy the way the neighborhood found out about the tree being removed,” Alice Hagler, a 20-year resident of Park Avenue, said on behalf of a group of about 40 homeowners who signed a three-page petition to save the oak. “It all seemed backwards.”

On Wednesday, removal efforts were put on hold, as Augusta Commission member Mary Davis, whose district includes Forest Hills, said officials are determining whether the oak is a “danger to the public or adjoining property,” criteria Augusta’s ordinance requires to be met to remove a tree on a public right-of-way.

Hagler said the notice of demolition appeared out of the blue, two years after the neighborhood hired Dan Bauer, a private arborist from Covington, to survey the trees in their neighborhood.

Bauer found 30 trees needed removal, 200 needed pruning and 120 spaces needed planting. The city removed and trimmed the hazardous varieties, while the neighborhood raised money to plant between 50 and 60 new trees.

Forest Hills residents said they believe the audit has become a springboard for new, younger residents moving into the neighborhood to take down historic hardwoods to make room for larger, more modern homes.

The home’s developer, Jimmy Garren, and owners, Jonathan and Kimberly Lindman, did not return phone messages Wednesday.

“We recognize some of the trees are dying, but this particular one is a city tree that’s part of the charm of the neighborhood,” said Chris Myers, who lives across the street from the endangered oak. “This tree has the potential to live a lot longer life. If you take it down, what’s next?”

Myers and Hagler, whose husband is a Forest Hills native, and several other homeowners appeared before the Augusta-Richmond County Tree Commission with Davis to fight for the tree’s life.

However, Chairman Roy Simkins told the residents the same thing – the city only has a commercial tree ordinance and cannot stop the owner from building where he or she wants.

In a phone interview Wednesday, Simkins said he could not speak for the commission, but said the order to remove the tree is a decision made in the interest of growing healthy trees and eliminating hazardous ones in Augusta.

“We have a general tree problem in Forest Hills,” Simkins said. “The oak in question is not one of the worst trees on the street, but like the rest of them, is on its way out and has some issues that while not terminal tomorrow, will really have some problems in a very few years.”

According to Augusta’s Web site, the Darlington Oak “reaches maturity at approximately 50 years and lives for 70–90 years.”

Both Simkins and Bauer believe, if untouched, the tree would last five to 10 years. However a driveway for the house will cause 50 to 60 percent root loss and shorten the tree’s lifespan.

“With the damage that will occur it is safer for anyone who has to remove it to do it now before the tree becomes more structurally weak and needs to come down later,” Bauer wrote in an e-mail to the neighborhood. “The cost of trying to save the tree with cables, treatments would actually be just as high as the removal cost and again no guarantee that will do anything against the root loss.”

Simkins said he examined the tree, which he estimates was planted around 1928, when the Forest Hills Golf Course was first developed, and believes the “plug should be pulled,” because the tree needs a cable and brace and that the homeowners have offered to plant two new trees to replace it.

“I know there is some serious passion among a few of the homeowners that would just hate to lose another big tree, and I certainly can’t blame them for that, but Mother Nature unfortunately is a serious competitor,” Simkins said. “I wish we could give this tree another 20 to 30 years, but it is just not in the cards.”

Comments (21) Add comment
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Riverman1
90109
Points
Riverman1 10/24/13 - 03:27 am
3
2
Can't Win This One

It's a shame to lose a tree like that before it has actually died. But those two residents will win this one. They can ensure the death of the tree if they want.

deestafford
30206
Points
deestafford 10/24/13 - 05:30 am
6
3
I walk Park Ave for exercise every morning passing this tree.

It is no more damaged than the others on the street. The driveway in question can be modified without killing the tree that is on city property. If the tree has only 15-20 years to live, let it live till its end and then take it out and redo the driveway.

agustinian
721
Points
agustinian 10/24/13 - 05:54 am
6
1
Who Knew Augusta Had Its Own Death Panel

Wow, a death panel for trees. In the end, we are all terminal, what's with the pre-emptive death knell?
Forest Hills, don't let Augusta's Death Panel win? Fight them!

iloveaugusta1
17
Points
iloveaugusta1 10/24/13 - 06:37 am
6
3
Shame on the neighborhood bullies

Do people in that neighborhood really have nothing better to do than bully the new family on the block? Let's have deestafford organize a group willing to pay the family to redo the driveway when the tree falls over. Our city has bigger fish to fry.

deestafford
30206
Points
deestafford 10/24/13 - 07:00 am
4
3
There will be a new drive way done whether or not the

tree is cut down. My point is the tree does not have to be cut down to put in a circular drive way. The existing driveway will be eliminated and a new one installed. A modification of the planned driveway can be done with no additional cost. It's my understanding everything is on hold until an independent arborist can examine the tree.

iloveaugusta1
17
Points
iloveaugusta1 10/24/13 - 07:17 am
3
2
Makes sense deestafford.

Makes sense deestafford. Simpkins is as much as a tree lover as anyone else in the city (think his family planted the trees on park) but he's also realistic. I've heard that the family plans to put in two new trees. Just makes more sense to go ahead while the house is being built in my humble opinion. Why penalize the family to have to redo an expensive driveway in a few years. Take up a neighborhood collection if they feel that strongly about 1 tree. Besides, nobody has mentioned they tore down an old ugly rental and are building a beautiful house that will enhance the property values of the neighborhood. Sometimes people miss the forest for the trees.

redfish
772
Points
redfish 10/24/13 - 08:10 am
6
1
The tree is 85 years old...

The lifespan for that species of tree is approx 90 years, this tree will be dying in approx 5 years anyway. I think a fair resolution would be for the residents who oppose removing the tree now, to go ahead and prepay for the tree to be removed when it begins dying. The money cna be held in an account by a bank or an attorney. The property owner can put in their driveway, the tree can stay, and the cost to remove the tree will be borne by the people who want it to stay for now.

just an opinion
2839
Points
just an opinion 10/24/13 - 10:10 am
2
4
john
1143
Points
john 10/24/13 - 09:02 am
6
2
nice

the new family is really making new friends. They will be popular in that neighborhood.

allhans
24441
Points
allhans 10/24/13 - 09:07 am
4
1
It is a shame. The trees

It is a shame. The trees keep coming down...

justthefacts
23731
Points
justthefacts 10/24/13 - 09:16 am
2
0
LOL @ john

So, no fresh baked cookies as a welcoming gift?

just an opinion
2839
Points
just an opinion 10/24/13 - 09:19 am
2
1
Actually if they're all going to eventually die anyway...

Just clear cut them all so it will be like Columbia County.

bdouglas
5567
Points
bdouglas 10/24/13 - 10:10 am
2
1
Somebody call the Augusta

Somebody call the Augusta National and have them come pick it up and move it. They've moved bigger!

Old Augusta
324
Points
Old Augusta 10/24/13 - 10:55 am
4
0
As much as I love the old trees, they are all going to die soon

In the Druid Hills area of Atlanta there have been multiple tragic accidents with falling trees that have even claimed the life of child. I live on the hill and a Darlington Oak tree fell across my yard just down the road from Park Ave. My children used to play catch almost every day where that tree fell if not for the fact we went out of town the day before. If we had planted Live Oaks like they have in Aiken, these tress would live much longer, but the fact is every one of these trees will be falling over soon if not replaced. I know it's not what people want to hear, but it's just the truth. It's not worth having a tragedy as much as we all love these old trees.

fishman960
1502
Points
fishman960 10/24/13 - 11:06 am
4
0
Trees

I love the serenity of old trees. They have a natural calming effect. I can sit under one for hours.
However, doesn't this fall under "the wants of a few outweighing the need for sensible judgement?"
If it was a younger, healthy tree and the property owner was removing it just because, I would tend to agree with keeping it.
But if it is a safety issue, logic dictates that removal is warranted before a fatality occurs.
JMHO.

internationallyunknown
4631
Points
internationallyunknown 10/24/13 - 12:03 pm
0
0
A tree...

A tree...

john
1143
Points
john 10/24/13 - 12:18 pm
0
0
@just

more like the burning paper bag with dog poop in it lol.

john
1143
Points
john 10/24/13 - 12:21 pm
2
0
tree

perhaps if the real reason is the new owners want to build a driveway, the city can give them permission then have the owners call a tree service. Why should the city pay for it?

nocnoc
46895
Points
nocnoc 10/24/13 - 02:40 pm
0
0
Remove the Orange Tapes

Move them down the street to a much disliked College presidents yard.

(HUMOR, JUST HUMOR)

GodisSoGood
1017
Points
GodisSoGood 10/24/13 - 03:59 pm
2
0
Tree

I would think that the tree provides an aesthetic appeal to the view of the property much more than a circular driveway would.

I love the look of neighborhoods with big tall oak trees.

Little Lamb
47848
Points
Little Lamb 10/24/13 - 04:36 pm
0
1
Thumbs Up

I think redfish had the best solution.

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