Carpenter Street: Failing Parkway Tree Protections

Rigid engineering more important than flexible common sense?

I have been dogging this since January CIPS meetings. I made visual presentations to Public Works engineers at the May meetings about public and private tree protection. I have spoken with Interim Public Works Director Robin Weaver before and after council meetings, and exchanged emails with both her and Asst. Public Works Director Mike Millette. I have met with Mike on our lawn right at the problem area for my yard, and on neighbors yards.

And here we go again. Try as they might, and I beleive the intentions of PW are the best, the project is beset with oddities and features that defy common sense.

The Village has Public Parkway Tree Protection Requirements. These are requirements, not suggestions or guidelines, or optional. Requirements entail enforcement.

Here’s an example from my May presentation to the PW engineers clearly identifying where the sidewalk was being sited in violation of the PPTPR and, more importantly, in defiance of common sense. You simply can’t cut roots that close to a trunk and expect a tree to survive. That’s one they changed, BTW. PW has demonstrated limited, hesitant flexibility when faced with resident pressure. I’ve written about this elsewhere; residents are obligated to reach out and find a way to get into the process despite efforts of village to output information.

Click on images for larger versions.

There’s supposed to be intact metal fencing around parkway trees:

All CRZ fencing shall be a 6 foot high temporary chain link construction fence secured to metal posts spaced no further than 10 feet apart, and shall be maintained daily in good condition. Any exceptions to the fence dimensions or parkway position shall be noted on the permit.

Carpenter doesn’t have it, and there’s no permit posted that allows for an exception. Here’s some examples of the results:

Click on images for larger versions.

While the project certainly could have authorized plastic fencing of the type used (and banned a couple years ago as inneffective), it does not appear these fences meet the space requirements, and are not being maintained on a daily basis.

Public Works engineers have clung to the idea that they must only allow what they must, always searching for a minimum variance when siting and executing sidewalks, trying to stay close to their self-imposed standards, and within federal requirements (like the ADA). Residents have heard plenty about how the absolute minimum distance from sidewalk to street is five feet or grass wont grow, and that if the sidewalk is abutting the street, it has to be seven feet wide, and we can’t do this and we have to do that.

Referring to other areas of town having it worse is a non-sequitur, a logical fallacy; there’s no reason to make it worse than it need be here simply because it’s worse there. We have less setback along most of Ogden Avenue, Main Street, 55th Street, many high volume streets. As sidewalk projects get harder and harder to site, PW needs to employ some creative thinking. Not an absolute minimum, an absolute maximum of creative thinking.

Here’s a clearly less than six foot wide sidewalk next to a curb. In this case, the easement is very narrow. This is on Carpenter. But PW engineers can’t do the same for the sidewalk on the west side of my property, giving my (villages, they are on the parkway) two mature maples a much better chance to continue thriving. They survived a horrible hack trim three years ago that topped the trees, they survived the dry spell that came with the topping damage and shock, and now PW wants to cut the roots 9″ from the trunks, on the west side. that would destabilize the tree and make it helplessly unanchored to strong westerly winds (the most common around here), dramatically increasing the probablility the trees, in a storm with high winds, would simply fall onto my house. Do what they have already done in this picture, on the same street two blocks away, and that probability goes to almost zero. Hello? Anyone home? Anyone thinking? Can’t think it through? Here are pictures where you have already solved the problem.

Part of the problem is engineers are trained to think linearly. Start at A, go to B, end up at C. So they do n’t think much outside the box if they don’t have to, and keep the lines straight wherever they can.

Except here, where instead of simply saving time, money, and materials by running straight to the curb, they get very creative. I’m supposing this is to avoid having to remove that 40 year old street sign? This is a good example of engineering triumphing over common sense.

Click on images for larger versions.

The problem continues with what appear to be improperly cut tree roots. In the requirements it clearly states:

In cases when severing of roots within a portion of the CRZ may be unavoidable (ex. sidewalk installation, curb replacement, water main or sanitary main disconnects in the parkway), subject to the approval of the Village Forester, the smallest possible area shall be disturbed and sharp clean cuts shall be made on root ends to promote wound closure and root regeneration.

Most root “cuts” approximated these shown. That is either one dull blade, or it was not really cut at all, just dug with the backhoe to save time. The visual evidence today says dug, not cut; requirements were not followed. Most of the trees I have worked to save since January may die anyway from shock and trauma. Was the Village Forester or her representatives ensuring the required cutting procedure was followed?

Here’s another one that they will make shortly, even though, just like this one, it has been pointed out it makes no real world sense. This is the SE corner of Carpenter and 62nd Place. The sidewalk that was placed on the east side of the street, the side where the shopping center is, where people would (in theory) now be able to walk safely to and from the neighborhood, here takes a turn and moves over to the west side of the street, away from the shopping center, away from a row of overgrown garbage shrubs. Again, engineering tortures common sense. Want to walk one block from the NE corner of Carpenter and 62nd to the NE corner of Carpenter and 63rd? Cross a street three times.

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3 Responses to “Carpenter Street: Failing Parkway Tree Protections”

  1. John Schofield Says:

    With the Village likely to lose 20% of the urban forest canopy (both public and private) to emerald ash borer, every effort should be made to spare every remaining tree.

  2. Retired Arborist Says:

    Would it be the Foresters job to ensure parkway tree fencing is maintained or is it the building inspection services who are responsible? Someone’s shirking their duties and should be held accountable.

  3. Didn't Want Them In The First Place Says:

    We live on Carpenter. We moved here many years ago. We loved the rural feel and the look of no sidewalks. If you want sidewalks, move, but no, we got them despite not wanting them. I even spoke to you Mr. Thoman, who said kids will be using them to ride bikes and walk to school, and I was one of those who watched your presentation to the public works people at the May meeting where no one could hear anything because of a huge fan running that they couldn’t find an off switch for. We appreciate what you tried to do, but we should have known then that they didn’t know what they were doing. We were told in May we had no choice. We were told this is policy. This is a horrible way to treat taxpayers and waste money. It makes us wonder if the flooding will be fixed too, as they promised. I beleive at that time you had asked how they were going to make water drain uphill, and they had no answer for that.


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