Letter To The Editor: Heritage Trees

Much appreciated your story on Tacoma’s [heritage] trees (“Saving Tacoma’s Urban Arbor,” TDI, 08/26/08).

Attached find photos of a Black Walnut tree that was lost on Tacoma Avenue, just south of Sixth Avenue, more than a year ago. The property owner fought long and hard to take down that tree. It was absolutely a beautiful tree and that intersection is not the same. There are some similarly aged Walnut trees on Tacoma Avenue, but south, at Eight Street, and north, at Fourth and Second Streets.

These trees are easily 80-100 years old. Earlier this summer, a neighbor across Yakima Avenue from my condo building, took down a very old Elm tree. The tree was in good health, the property owner just did not like the “mess” the tree made during the spring with the seeds and in the fall. Being an Elm, its loss was especially sad. Elm trees throughout the West and especially in Wright Park were decimated in the 1980s when the Dutch Elm Disease arrived. This tree was a survivor. This tree was taken down without a permit from the city. The owner was sanctioned. The only penalty is that he must participate in the tree planting we are undertaking for the block later this fall. I have photos of that tree also if you’re interested.

A heritage tree program would be a good measure for the city. But beyond that, better forestry and tree management practices are in order. Consider that each property owner is responsible for maintaining the street trees in front of their property. On streets like Yakima, one of Tacoma’s best planted streets, that has led to some unfortunate mishaps. Notice the trees outside the Armory, that the National Guard decided to “trim” a while back, permanently damaging the health of the trees.

There are some important streets, especially downtown, where the city should actively plant and care for the trees.

Thanks again for your coverage of this topic.

— Brett Santhuff, Tacoma