A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Council cool to idea for saving old oaks

Written March 11th, 2020 by Hasso Hering

Jeff Blaine and Rick Barnett talk to the council with a visual aid, a slab of what used to be a 120-year old Oregon white oak.

The Albany City Council this week gave a cool reception to a proposal to try to preserve big old Oregon white oaks by charging a fee if property owners insist on cutting them down.

The city staff and Tree Commission suggested the fee, without specifying an amount, as part of a general revision of the city’s development and municipal codes. The idea is to encourage the preservation — and discourage the removal — of the remnants of groves of Oregon white oaks that started growing more than a century ago.

Community Development Director Jeff Blaine and Rick Barnett of the parks department, also the city forester, presented the idea of an “Oregon white oak removal fee” at the council’s work session Monday. The fee would be required for the removal of Oregon white oaks bigger than 6.5 feet in circumference.

But the council didn’t like it. Several members questioned the idea, and only Mayor Sharon Konopa spoke up in favor of protecting Albany’s historic trees.

Councilor Rich Kellum said it’s a question of “whose tree it is.” Charging a fee would cost owners more money, in addition to other fees and property taxes, to do what they want to improve their property. Councilor Alex Johnson spoke in a similar vein.

The council agreed to take up the other code changes later — they are mostly a matter of clearing up language — but without the part about trying to do more to protect ancient oaks. As for the trees, the council may hold another work session to hear from tree preservation advocates as well as someone representing property rights.

For 20 years Albany has had regulations requiring permits to remove trees above a certain size. As the mayor recalled, that helped preserve a big oak where the Goodwill store was built on Pacific Boulevard. But it didn’t save the grove that made room for Lowe’s parking lot off Oak Street. And last year, while two or three were saved, several other big white oaks were cut down for the North Albany subdivision called Pheasant Run. (hh)

The story was edited to make clear the proposed fee would apply to the removal of white oaks bigger than 6½ feet in circumference.

8 responses to “Council cool to idea for saving old oaks”

  1. Ginny Jordan says:

    What about an old oak that’s ruined the sidewalk (people have tripped and fallen) and the tree is covered in moss and loses huge limbs all year long?

    It looks like crap! (200 block of Oak Street NE).

  2. Delfina says:

    It seems that the council is bent on making our city a concrete jungle. I love the beauty of Albany and being able to walk in the outdoors. When I lived in San Francisco over 30 years ago I was depressed as there were no trees on the streets only dirty pavement and people.

  3. John Klock says:

    Only about 1% of the Oregon white oaks remain in the Willamette Valley. Oaks provide the most diverse habitat for birds and other wildlife, Oaks across the United States are following the same fate. 85% of US counties consider oak lands as their most valuable habitat. In this county, oaks are being cut at an alarming rate and Linn County has one of the highest rates of cutting. Before people start downgrading ways of saving oaks, they better think about what these prairie and savannah habitats mean to their children and their grandchildren. I read this blog irregularly, but I find the same people who complain about traffic, complain about the economy, and complain about city government seemingly present nothing of value in terms of solutions that support future generations of the city of Albany and Linn County. I’ll pay for an oak fee any day.

    • Hasso Hering says:

      According to the proposal, the fee would be paid only if an owner insisted on cutting an old one down. Your last sentence suggests you may have misunderstood that.

  4. D says:

    Property Theft

  5. Rolland says:

    My understanding of the Tree Cutting Permit is to protect our Heritage Trees are protected, not just Oregon White Oaks. I learned a bit about this roughly 10 years ago when I went through the process to get a permit to remove a large tree in our front yard, one of the five Oregon White Oaks on our property. It was over 150 years old, but noted as a hazardous tree according to an arborist. The permit process was easy to comply with, along with a pleasant surprise of no cost. When I asked the City Forester why, he stated they wanted to encourage residents to do the right thing to protect a Heritage Trees and encourage compliance with getting permits. That makes sense.

    What doesn’t make sense is to charge any fee especially based on size.

  6. AMANDA WILSON says:

    I agree with Mr. Klock. Maybe they should pay people to leave the oaks. That seems to be the only thing people respond to anymore. What is in it for me? How can I profit from this? Does anyone care about the greater good of the environment and community any more?

  7. Bill Kapaun says:

    Do you risk a large oak branch from a 200 year old tree falling on your 100 year old house?
    There are some trees that become hazardous and need to be removed.
    First a fee and then it escalates to some city advisory committee holding public hearings……
    Of course the Mayor is in favor of exerting more needless city control over the residents.


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