Hayden residents upset after destruction of ‘magnificent’ trees (with video)
HAYDEN — Several Hayden residents voiced their dismay this month after five large, seemingly healthy, 73-year-old trees were pushed down by heavy equipment run by a subcontractor completing school demolition work, a move that was deemed unnecessary by at least one school official.
The demise of the trees on the south side of U.S. Highway 40 near downtown Hayden took place as part of a demolition of sections of the former school complex off South Third Street. The mature trees broken off mid-trunk were located on Hayden School District property. The location is also adjacent to the recently created Hayden Center.
“Hayden is a Tree City USA member, and the removal of healthy and magnificent trees without community input was heartbreaking and infuriating,” said Tena Frentress, who has lived across from the trees for more than 30 years. “There was no transparency and a lack of communication from anyone wanting to take responsibility for the removal of the trees.”
The town of Hayden has been a member of Tree City USA for 17 years with the designation earned through the national nonprofit Arbor Day Foundation. Hayden Town Council adopts a Tree City USA proclamation each year, and the town parks department planted new or additional trees in Dry Creek Park and in downtown Hayden in early June, Town Manager Mathew Mendisco said.
Laurel Watson, museum curator at the Hayden Heritage Center, said the destroyed cottonwood trees were likely planted in 1948 based on photo archives.
Though the trees were not on city property or in a public right of way, Mendisco said the town received about 10 complaint calls from residents. Town Council has since asked Medisco to investigate options for a tree protection ordinance, including the possible creation of a town tree board as exists in other Colorado communities.
“The council has asked me to look into an ordinance that would require people to get approval for removal of trees prior to them being removed,” Mendisco said, citing one example ordinance in the city of Aurora.
Frentress and some of her neighbors are concerned that additional beloved trees could be removed in town in the future without public input.
Frentress’ neighbor Kris Ingols called the tree removal “horrifying,” noting “there is no reason to have destroyed the trees.”
“Now there will be an empty lot with no trees in the center of Tree City USA,” Ingols said.
“People keep stopping by my house and complaining because they know (my husband) Tim is on the Hayden school board,” Frentress said. “People are pretty upset about this.”
Hayden School District Board Vice President Tim Frentress said he believes the removal of the trees “wasn’t necessary” and that it stemmed from “unclear communication.”
A small executive committee of school and construction officials made the decision to remove the trees citing liability hazards, according to Tim. The decision had not been brought to the full school board for discussion.
“There wasn’t any liability. There have been school children underneath those trees for years,” Tim said. “The trees were sound, not rotten or hollow. I’m upset because it wasn’t necessary, and we are a tree city. To me it was more of an asset to leave the trees there than to take them down, for whoever buys that lot.”
To reach Suzie Romig, call 970-871-4205 or email sromig@SteamboatPilot.com.
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