A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

City: Cutting trees to save the sidewalks

Written January 17th, 2023 by Hasso Hering

Pink ribbons mark all the trees along 22nd Place SE on Jan. 16. The sign says the sycamores will be “removed for sidewalk replacement.”

The Albany neighborhood between Periwinkle Elementary School and Waverly Drive is about to lose its mature street trees. At least one homeowner wishes the city would leave the trees be.

Joyce Thompson Graham lives in the neighborhood and sent me an email about the planned tree felling, and on Monday the bike took me there to take a look.

Pink ribbons marked 35 sycamores on 22nd Place and 22nd Avenue S.E. A few had signs saying the trees are to be “removed for sidewalk replacement.”

Houses on the streets were built over two or three years starting in 1997, so the trees are probably about 25 years old.

According to the minutes, the Albany Tree Commission was told in October that the sycamores in the neighborhood had become too big and were destroying the sidewalks. Some were removed and other trees planted two years ago, and the remaining ones were to be taken out now.

Some of the trees border a grassy field belonging to the school, and the sidewalks there look undamaged.

“The mature trees provide shade for people who use the field, provide habitat for birds, provide benefit to land and water systems, lower environmental temperature, and make an attractive neighborhood,” the homeowner’s email said. “Just look at how ugly 21st Street off Waverly looks now, shorn of all the beautiful tree canopy.”

“I have lived in old neighborhoods with established trees most of my life,” she wrote. “Only upon moving to Albany have I seen a city so bent on cutting trees down.”

I asked Rick Barnett, the park and facilities maintenance manager and city forester, for a response.

“We wouldn’t take the trees out if we didn’t have to,” he wrote. He also explained, by email, as follows:

“The tree removal (and replacement) is part of a project we started on 21st a few years ago.   We started on 21st because it was worse and now we are finally able to move around to the rest of the project. We have to do it this time of year because our street crew does the concrete and sidewalk replacement work and their only availability is early in the year.

“These trees have grown large very quickly and will continue to grow larger.  Sycamores should have never been planted in these planter strips and now unfortunately they need to come out. When we were going to do this project before, we put flyers out and spoke to several of the homeowners.

“The bottom line is that the trees are destroying or will destroy the sidewalks as the trees get larger. This destruction and the unsafe conditions it creates will happen sooner than later. For instance two years ago I looked at the trees at 2765 22nd and thought we probably could get by without removing them. I looked at them Friday and they are causing minor (which will soon turn into major) sidewalk damage.

“I understand the homeowner concern. We don’t want to spend the time and resources to remove the trees and be looked at as bad guys in the process, but it is necessary to provide for public safety. Since we know the rest of the trees are going to cause problems in time it makes the most sense to do it all at once.”

In October, Barnett told the parks commission the trees replacing the sycamores most likely would be redbuds.

Redbuds are flowering trees said to be ideal along streets and sidewalks. They grow about 1 or 2 feet a year and reach a height of 20 to 30 feet. “They are strikingly beautiful, attract beneficial insects, have medicinal uses, are drought tolerant, are low-maintenance, and are available in different species,” one online source says.

Twenty-some years ago, when the area was developed, the city must have allowed the sycamores to be planted. “It was before my watch,” Barnett said. “We wouldn’t now.”

Trees along 22nd Avenue S.E., with Periwinkle School in the background.





10 responses to “City: Cutting trees to save the sidewalks”

  1. Diane Branson says:

    It’s sad to see mature trees cut down but am encouraged that they’ll be replanting. Hopefully the city will commit to providing them with water though. I’m saddened every time I go up Crocker (in North Albany) and see all the dying trees that were planted along the sidewalks.

  2. chris j says:

    Larger trees help shade the ground providing cooler areas that do not dry out helping them to survive drier times. Why not make the planter strip wider and move the sidewalk over into the grass side. This would save money by not cutting the trees. Creating and retaining more natural areas in the city is more of a benefit than replacing the trees. Remove the concrete if and when it becomes a hazard. Albany is getting to be a visually stressful place to live and losing it’s comforting small town feel. Please speak out and preserve our community as the city of trees rather than the concrete jungle it is becoming.

  3. Patricia Eich says:

    That is too bad the trees are being removed. If I remember correcrtly, Corvallis has some very old, large sycamores. When we moved into our house 40 years ago there was already a sycamore in the front yard. It is now very big and provides a lot of shade. Also the roots spread out from the tree. I can see where the sidewalks would be getting damaged. Unfortunate that they were planted in that location.

  4. S D Rice says:

    Flowering trees will be very beautiful! The current trees drop way too many large leaves that blow into our yards, garages & gardens, even plugging up city drains in the street.
    For several years a resident on 22nd Pl SE feeds crows food & scraps on the ground daily (40+ crows can gather all at one time) these crows converge in these trees, the sidewalk is littered with bird feces & old food which people must walk through, plus keep their pets from eating. Please don’t get me wrong as we love birds, but Crows are natural scavengers able to easily survive without supplemental food. Crows also chase away any smaller birds & destroy their nests.
    We won’t miss the massive amounts of leaves or those pesky messy crows!

  5. Bill says:

    Any concern for the erosion occurring on the Periwinkle Creek … Grand Prairie to Queen?

  6. TLH-ALB1 says:

    Leave the trees be….FIX THE CITY STREETS.

  7. Dick Conolly says:

    Clear cutting trees to save sidewalks — what an interesting priority for a City allegedly proud of its Tree City heritage and designation. Sadly, living in Albany we have little idea what mature trees looks like.

    I grew up in the NE, on Buttonwood Drive, a buttonwood being another name for a Platanus occidentalis, or American sycamore. Those healthy trees slated for the wood chipper are far from mature, they are being removed in there juvenile years.

    A sycamore can grow to massive proportions, typically reaching up to 30 to 40 m (98 to 131 ft) high and 1.5 to 2 m (4.9 to 6.6 ft) in diameter. The largest of the species have been measured to 53 m (174 ft), and nearly 4 m (13 ft) in diameter.

    If you would care to see photographs of such a magnificent American sycamore trees, including one stunning example growing immediately adjacent to a municipal sidewalk with no apparent damage to the sidewalk check out this Wickipedia entry…



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