Jennifer McCrystal said her jaw dropped when she saw the stumps of trees along the fence that divides the Sisters Overnight Park from Tyee Drive and the Buck Run subdivision.
Testifying before the city council on Thursday evening during the visitors communications portion of the meeting, McCrystal told the council that she has heard concerns about the tree cutting underway in Sisters from neighbors and patrons of her restaurant.
"There are a lot of people who are here because they are seeing all of these trees coming down and they're concerned," she told the council.
There are a couple of different projects that involve cutting trees going on at once. City staff and Mayor Brad Boyd are assuring the community that the cutting is only the first phase of these projects and many trees will be replaced.
One project involves managing trees that grow into overhanging power lines along East Cascade Avenue near Sisters Elementary School. Central Electric Cooperative has the right to top those trees to keep them from interfering with the power lines.
"Unfortunately, we've got 60-foot trees growing under 40-foot power lines," Boyd told The Nugget on Friday.
The city is opting to remove some of those trees, especially in spots where they are growing very close together. The goal is to allow the remaining trees to be healthy.
Where appropriate, the city plans next spring to replace some of the cut trees with street trees that will not grow as tall as a ponderosa pine. The trees, which are in city right-of-way, will also pose less of a concern from roots disrupting pavement and sidewalks.
Responding to alarm from residents, city staff went door-to-door on East Cascade Avenue. City Manager Andrew Gorayeb said that if residents and/or property owners really don't want trees removed, the city will forego doing so. However, he noted that the replacement street trees will be much more attractive than severely topped pines, and those who opt out may have second thoughts when they see the finished project.
In an interview with The Nugget, Mayor Boyd and Council President McKibben Womack repeatedly emphasized that the council values Sisters' Tree City USA status and that the projects won't stop with a bunch of stumps marking where trees have been. Stumps will be removed and new trees planted, though Boyd noted that "we're not necessarily going to do it one-for-one."
Tree City USA status "is not threatened," Womack said. "It's not even close."
Gorayeb noted that the trees along the fence at Tyee Drive were, in the long term, going to destabilize the fence. The removal, he said, will allow the remaining ponderosas to flourish. The fence will be stained on both sides and street trees planted next spring.
Gorayeb acknowledged that the city should have communicated more thoroughly and directly with residents. He assumed, since public works crews have been out cleaning up right-of-way in the neighborhood, that residents would understand that the cutting is part of ongoing beautification projects.
"We should have done door hangers," he said. "That won't happen again."
Boyd noted that other projects are designed to improve some public parks. Several trees in the northeast corner of Creekside Park were cut down because the growth was too dense.
"The east end of the park was not utilized and actually had homeless camps in it," Boyd said. "I'm going to use the word neglected."
There will be more focus on the park in coming months.
"We're going to green it up," Boyd said. "It's going to be attractive. We're going to respect the creek and all the work that's been done for restoration and we're going to make it a more attractive, nicer park."
Similarly, the triangle of land at the west end of Sisters will be cleaned up, and the trees thinned for health. Preference will be given to ponderosas.
"If there are two ponderosas and a juniper, that juniper probably needs to go," Boyd said.
Boyd and Womack acknowledged that there is a lot of highly visible work going on in Sisters at the moment, and that it may mark an alarming amount of change for some residents (see related story, page 3). The mayor encourages residents to talk directly with city staff or council members to get concerns raised and questions answered.