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Trees cleared on golf course – Residents, activists criticize city for cutting down healthy trees


Friday, June 06, 2008

Pittsburgh’s tree-cutting policies have come under fire again.

Some Mount Washington residents are questioning why the city let a condo developer cut trees in Grandview Byways Scenic Park, and Friends of the Pittsburgh Urban Forest are criticizing the cutting of oaks in Schenley Park to benefit golfers.


Workers with Carl's Tree Service of West Mifflin load the tree trunk of an old oak tree cut down along Schenley Drive on the Bob O'Connor Golf Course at Schenley. - Pam Pancak

Workers with Carl's Tree Service of West Mifflin load the tree trunk of an old oak tree cut down along Schenley Drive on the Bob O'Connor Golf Course at Schenley. - Pam Pancak

“Shocked would be a better word,” said Ken Stiles, a board member of the urban forest group. “Cutting down 100-year-old healthy trees? Because they were getting in the way of golfers?” 

Danielle Crumrine, the executive director, said she visited the site where about 10 old oak trees were to be removed. She said she asked the contractor if they were healthy and he said all but a few were.

Friends of the Pittsburgh Urban Forest is a partner in, and fund-raiser for, the city’s maintenance of trees.

Yesterday, Marc Field, executive director of First Tee of Pittsburgh, which operates the Bob O’Connor Golf Course in the park, said that the organization asked the contractor, Carl’s Tree Service, to suspend work “pending further review.”

Crews had removed three trees, said Mr. Field. “Certainly, concerns that have been raised caused us to review the manner in which we might proceed.”

Previously, Mr. Field said an agronomist had recommended a maintenance program “that conforms with golf industry standards. It is a golf course, and it has to be functional. Yes, some live trees were removed,” he said, adding that First Tee will be planting 50 to 70 new trees.

Mike Gable, deputy director of the city’s public works department, said First Tee wanted many more trees taken down than the city agreed to.

“On hole 9 they wanted to take five or six trees and we agreed only to prune to give an opening,” he said.

Meanwhile, the view has been cleared for six new condos at Bailey Avenue and Bigbee Street in a little sprig of Allentown that juts into Mount Washington.

Public Works Director Guy Costa said some trees were invasive and supposed to come out anyway, “and some were dead.” The developer “stepped up” to help cut invasive and ailing trees that the city wanted to remove, with supervision of the city’s forestry department. The developer also is responsible for replanting, he said.

Tom Chunchick, executive vice president of Crawford Construction, described his interests and the city’s as being “a win-win.”

“I spent over $7,000 to cut the trees down, and the city said it was good timing because they didn’t have the money in their budget,” he said.

The condos have been under construction for a year-and-a-half, priced in the mid-$700,000s, he said.

Lynn Squilla, a board member of the Mount Washington Community Development Corp., said she didn’t object to people having their views, “but this is a public park.”

Jamini Davies, a resident of Mount Washington, said the removal of trees was an ethical breach of the city’s role since it benefited a developer.

“I’m not sure it has benefited either Mount Washington or the city,” she said.

The city’s tree-cutting policies came under fire last winter in Squirrel Hill, where the razing of dozens of full-grown, stately London plane trees — in some cases entire rows along a street — set off such furor that the city agreed to a temporary moratorium there, which is still in effect.

More than 100 people attended a meeting in January at which public works officials said they were only taking out 550 trees in Squirrel Hill that a 2005 inventory showed were dead, dying and likely liabilities.

The cutting of healthy trees is particularly troubling when seen against the efforts to plant and maintain them, said Ms. Crumrine, whose organization has raised more than $1 million to pay for the cutting of large dead branches from old trees.

“Money should not be spent on something that is not truly a priority,” she said. “We have trees that are a liability and we’re cutting down perfectly good trees to help golfers.”

Diana Nelson Jones can be reached at or 412-263-1626.
First published on June 6, 2008 at 12:00 am
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