Around 20 trees in Redmond’s Idylwood Beach Park remain standing this evening after Redmond city officials’ decision to remove three large trees deemed dangerous did not begin on Monday morning as planned.
The trees were scheduled to be cut down and removed following two instances last summer where branches fell from large Cottonwoods located along the park’s beach. One branch sent a woman to Harborview Medical Center in critical condition.
At a March 20 City Council meeting, Redmond Park Operations Manager Dave Tucheck said a total of 30 trees had been identified as posing risks to park patrons and should be removed. Other solutions such as placing fences around the trees or pruning were said to be ineffective, he said.
“We feel that we can actually prevent accidents and injury with this decision,” Tucheck said.
The city’s plan involves removing the trees and replacing them with a mix of 60 conifer and deciduous trees, shrubs and ground cover.
This decision has mobilized neighbors of the park who say some of the trees serve as perches for bald eagles. Eliot Sokolow has become an unofficial spokesperson for the group Save Idylwood Trees, which is asking for a stay on tree removal until further study is conducted on how it would affect the park’s environment.
Sokolow said the city’s decision to remove the trees did not adequately inform residents of removal plans. A notice of the proposed action was posted on the city’s website and two signs were placed in the park.
“Community outreach was basically tell people why we’re doing this and scare tactics,” Sokolow said.
In the three decades Sokolow has lived near Idylwood he has only seen bald eagles begin to perch in the trees within the last 15 years. On Monday morning, when the largest three trees were set to be removed, a bald eagle landed on two of them, Sokolow said.
Sokolow said neighbors were only notified on Friday at 5 p.m. that trees would be removed on Monday morning. A group of neighbors came together and rapidly mobilized in an attempt to save the trees, he said.
“We scrambled,” he said. “It’s wonderful to see a living democracy a work.”
Neighbors hired the law firm Bricklin & Newman to represent their position that the city hadn’t conducted enough research to cut the trees down.
In a letter to the city, the firm questioned the city’s assessment that the trees were hazardous. Many of the trees were designated as being at risk of “sudden limb drop,” a condition where trees unexpectedly shed branches. The firm said this phenomena is poorly understood and the city did not do enough research before officials decided to remove them. The firm additionally questioned whether the city had obtained a tree removal permit.
Redmond has acquired a clearing and grading permit, which allows them to remove trees that threaten public health in emergency situations. City spokesperson Becky Range said the clearing and grading permit is more robust than individual tree removal permits and is required when more than 11 trees will be removed from a location.
“We really do value and protect our trees, but public safety takes priority,” she said.
The city’s removal plan was proposed by five arborists on staff and approved by the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife. An environmental review was additionally completed. No eagle nests were found in any of the trees slated for removal, Range said, and around 10 smaller trees have already been removed. The city’s contractor has until April 20 to remove the trees.