Port Angeles Sequoia 105-feet tall poses danger, should come down, arborist says

PORT ANGELES — A stately tree at Lions Park is slated for removal despite objections from a neighbor and other residents.

The roots of the 105-foot sequoia are causing damage to an adjacent property and its co-dominant stems pose a safety risk to park users, Corey Delikat, Port Angeles Parks and Recreation director, said in a memo to the City Council.

The City Council heard the update on action concerning the tree at a Tuesday meeting, having received the memo and an arborist’s recommendation to remove the tree in advance of the meeting.

Lions Park is a small neighborhood park in the 600 block of East Whidby Avenue.

“It is a beautiful tree, but there were some issues with it,” Mayor Sissi Bruch said at the council meeting.

In 2016, a neighbor complained of ongoing property damage caused by the tree’s root system, Delikat said.

The shallow roots of the non-native sequoia had raised portions of a private driveway and were undermining the foundation of the house, a staff evaluation found.

To make matters worse, two main stems growing side-by-side from a point about halfway up the tree had a “weak union” and posed a “high risk of failure,” the evaluation showed.

“Ultimately, it is the wrong type of tree planted in the wrong location,” Delikat said in the memo.

“Although the city does not like to remove trees, especially in our city parks, we have an obligation to keep the public safe in our parks and to the adjacent property owners.”

The concerned neighbor was informed that the tree would be removed last year.

“Then we had another neighbor who didn’t want this tree cut,” Bruch told the council.

“With that debate, they asked me to come and take a look. I did.”

Last winter, Bruch, Delikat and the two neighbors formed a committee with Peninsula Urban Forestry President John Bornsworth and Parks, Recreation and Beautification Commission member Iris Winslow to hash out a solution.

The Lions Park tree committee reached a consensus to hire an outside arborist to evaluate the tree.

Meanwhile, City Council members were peppered last year with public testimony from citizens who wanted the tree to be saved.

The city hired Kevin McFarland of Sound Urban Forestry in Olympia to assess the tree. McFarland determined that the tree posed a high risk and should be removed.

“The current structure of the tree with two large diameter co-dominate stems is a concern,” McFarland wrote in a Jan. 17 risk assessment.

“Either one of the stems could fail due to high winds, gravity or a combination of both.”

McFarland advised against removing one of the two stems, saying the remaining canopy would be subject to wind damage.

Using steel cable or polyester rope as structural support would not eliminate the possibility of a failure, he added.

Cutting the roots at the property line would cause tree instability, stress or death from a lack of food storage and nutrient uptake, McFarland said.

“Taking into consideration the risk determination and damage to the adjacent private property, I recommend the tree be removed,” McFarland concluded.

Delikat will initiate a bid process for tree removal when he returns from a short leave of absence.

There was no timeline for tree removal as of Wednesday, city Parks and Recreation Department Administrative Specialist Emily Moore said.

Bruch said the Lions Park tree helped to establish a public outreach process for future tree removal.

“This issue was very well handled,” Bruch said.

“It was very respectful from both ends. We got some professional folks to take a look at it. And thanks to that, like I said, there is now a process in place to let everybody know when a tree gets cut and what are the procedures we’re going to be following for that.”

“It’s just a beautiful tree,” Bruch added. “It’s a shame where it’s at, so therefore it needs to go.”

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at [email protected].

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