A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Why saw off the tops of riverbank trees?

Written May 13th, 2024 by Hasso Hering

The Willamette riverbank in front of the Wheelhouse building looked like this on Monday afternoon.

A week ago, I was out of town when someone got my attention with an email message. This was on May 7, and I couldn’t do anything about it at the time.

“A contractor is cutting down all the trees between the Wheelhouse building and the river,” the email said. “The contractor is leaving stumps about a foot or two above the ground. It is leaving that section of the Willamette without shade. You should take a look at it if your ride takes you that way.”

As the message suggested, Monday’s afternoon bike ride along the Albany riverfront took me past the Wheelhouse on the Dave Clark Path. Sure enough, between the path and the river, a bunch of small trees had been chopped off two or three feet above the ground.

Who did this and why?

Linn County has owned the Wheelhouse building since last December. But the property extends north only as far as the walls of the building and does not include the path or the riverbank.

The path and the riverbank are owned by the City of Albany, and contractors now are wrapping up the big Albany Waterfront Project. Is there a connection to this tree cutting?

“That work was not done with the Waterfront project, or by any city department,” City Engineer Staci Belcastro told me. “We’ve been notified about the vegetation removal and are working to determine responsibility and if there is mitigation required.”

If anybody knows the background or the details, you know where to reach me: Right here. (hh)

Postscript: This morning, Tuesday, May 14, I learned that Linn County had something to do with this. Check for a follow-up when I find out more, which I hope will be soon.

16 responses to “Why saw off the tops of riverbank trees?”

  1. Coffee says:

    Oh my God! What next?

  2. Diane Branson says:

    It shouldn’t be too difficult for the city to determine who arranged for this – follow the money. Someone is footing the bill. Ask who ever is doing the work.

  3. chris j says:

    Maybe since the “city of trees” has decided that trees are fair game for anything we label progressive, that anyone can just hack up trees they feel are interfering with their progressive plans. “Acting without thinking” about what is important, is the city’s new motto. Looking forward doesn’t include ruining all the good things that were done in the past. Hopefully, the trees remaining in Albany don’t get earmarked as interfering with the city’s progressive pipe dreams. The city is its own worst enemy. Too much collateral damage of its citizens and environment is being done by their friendly fire.

  4. Cory A says:

    Hello HH,

    I was on a bike ride and stumbled upon a landscape company working there, handy hands..not sure who hired them or any other details.


    • Bill Kapaun says:

      They’re in Tangent, so it shouldn’t be difficult to call/email and ask. They have a website.

  5. david pulver says:

    this story is becoming quite interesting. . my question to anyone who can answer… was it legal to do that?

  6. Mac says:

    Guess they haven’t heard that’s a no-no? I don’t understand how they couldn’t know..

    Willamette Valley: riparian forests have significantly declined with increasing development. Many streams now have only a thin strip of riparian vegetation, and some have none. Despite increasing emphasis on protection of riparian habitats and the formal establishment of the Willamette River Greenway, riparian habitats continue to decline.

    Limiting factors to Riparian habitats:
    Factor: Loss of riparian habitat, floodplain function, and habitat complexity: A high percentage of low-elevation and valley bottom riparian habitats have been lost. Riparian vegetation often is lost as habitat is converted to other uses. In several areas around the state, large cottonwood trees and gallery forest have been lost due to clearing and altered hydrological regimes. Development can restrict the natural ability of streams and riparian habitats to meander over time, limiting these habitats. Floodplains have been converted to other uses. Excessive removal of riparian vegetation can cause sedimentation that damages aquatic areas, loss of habitat complexity, and increased water temperatures that adversely affect aquatic habitat. Loss of streamside vegetation leads to bank erosion. Grazing and dam construction can degrade riparian habitats. Urban development has led to stream channelization and vegetation loss in some areas.
    Approach: Restore riparian zones that will provide the full array of associated ecological functions. Use voluntary cooperative efforts (i.e., Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program) and incentive programs to conserve, maintain and restore riparian habitats on private lands. Identify and apply lessons learned from successful riparian restoration efforts on private lands to future projects. Develop tools and financial incentives to assist with streambank stabilization and decrease downstream soil movement. Improvements in riparian habitats and hydrology can also improve the quality of remaining wetland habitats. Maintain and restore riparian buffers and minimize impacts from road building on public lands. Where appropriate, permit beaver habitat usage to continue maintaining habitat complexity, particularly in the Coast Range and parts of eastern Oregon. Maintain channel integrity and natural hydrology. Where feasible, work to restore historic hydrological conditions. Ensure that adequate riparian vegetation remains following management activities, so riparian vegetation can continue to prevent erosion, preserve water quality, and promote water temperatures favorable for fish. Restore lost vegetation through planting of native trees, shrubs and ground cover. Manage for future sources of large woody debris. Maintain and/or expand existing tracts of cottonwood forest and all cottonwood trees greater than 20 inches diameter regardless of landscape context.

    • Connie says:

      In short, the trees won’t grow back and without their branches with leaves, no way to photosynthesize to feed the plants. The slope over time will eventually slough down into the river (more mud), The concrete path will no longer have support and follow the mud on down. The Wheelhouse will follow, nothing left on that side to support it. The idea of “it will all just grow back” if left on its own doesn’t work here. If anything “just grows” here it will be a big jungle of blackberry brambles keeping anything else from growing. Any nutria tunnels down there will facilitate the debacle.

      If this area is replanted no doubt it will be with inappropriate plants (i.e. non-natives). Probably something like purty nursery trees that are for yards and gardens.

  7. Coffee says:

    CA saw the landscape company, Handy Hands, working by the river behind Wheelhouse. So, Hasso, get on your trusty steed (that being your bike) and question The City. They had to be the ones who hired Handy Hands. Who else??

  8. hj.anony1 says:

    Ha Ha Ha ha ha

    Well you gotta have a view! No?!?!?

  9. Patricia Jones says:

    Trees are vital to the environment. Worried about global warming? The quality of our air? Quit cutting down trees that you think are in the way.

  10. Coffee says:

    I was wrong. It was the county; not the city. I’m getting old and read your footnote wrong, Hasso. I thought it said the county didn’t know anything about it. Your footnote said the opposite.
    (I need new glasses, it seems.)
    Why is hj,anony1 laughing? This is not a laughing matter. It is very serious as Mac points out. Thank you, Mac, for your information.
    I think the county should be fined for hiring an incompetent landscape company to kill those trees, but the county may pay for it with the loss of the slope, a section of the Dave Clark concrete path, and part of their building, The Wheelhouse.

  11. Patricia Eich says:

    I walked by there last Saturday and saw all the cut trees. Thought it looked awful and wondered if it had something to do with the waterfront project.

  12. chris j says:

    My point was that the city is so cavalier about cutting trees, that people do not worry about anyone cutting any trees in the city. The city has cut down trees that were paid for by the city or donated to the city by people in the past expecting that future generations to enjoy. All their efforts in the parks, as of late are for the present generation of people who do not give nature any value. Trees are a treasure for all generations now and the in the future. No one will ever consider the remodeled parks and the loss of all those beautiful city trees a treasure. So the city did have something to do with it.


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