PIEDMONT -- Piedmonters love their trees, never more evident than with the lengthy debate at the park commission meeting over two Liquidambars.
Nancy and Allan Zackler on Sandringham Road want to remove the city street trees, concerned about invasive roots, buckling sidewalks and possible falling branches.
"I like trees, but I think of these trees as evil," Allan Zackler told the commission at last week's meeting."They are not allowing the enjoyment of our property. Safety is primary."
The Zacklers are worried someone will trip and fall on the uneven sidewalk, or that their tree's shallow roots will disrupt their foundation or underground utilities. They want to plant less destructive trees than the colorful Liquidambars that proliferate in Piedmont.
Parks manager Mark Feldkamp estimates there are more than 3,000 of the trees in Piedmont.
Horticulturist Jim Clark said the Zacklers' trees are smaller than average, but healthy.
"They could probably exist for many years. They would tolerate root pruning and root barriers," Clark said.
Some speakers cited how beautiful the neighborhood is now, noting that planting a different species would not fit. But others supported removing the trees for safety reasons.
The panel grappled with the options of removing the trees, or containing them with pruning and root barriers.
They decided to table the matter for their next meeting until more information was obtained
"It's hard to find a win-win in some cases for everyone," chair Jukka Valkonen said.
About five years ago a controversy erupted on Dale Avenue over its street trees. The flowering pear was finally chosen. Feldkamp said those trees are now plagued with blight, even though studies showed they were not susceptible to it. Clark noted that irrigation, sun and location affect how trees grow or fail.
Parks supervisor Dave Frankel estimated the city has repaired 12,000 trip hazards in the city over 10 years. The Zacklers have offered to share the cost of tree removal and replanting.
The commission voted to allow Marc and Samantha Furstein to remove six carob city street trees on Farragut. Clark said most of the trees are in poor condition.
"Carobs do not make a good street tree," Frankel said. "There are litter issues and it's not the best environment for them."
Furstein said his wife injured herself tripping on the uneven sidewalk buckled by the trees. He said they would pay for removal and irrigate the new trees with an on-site well they use for garden water. Sycamores of 24-inch box size would likely be planted, trees that grow briskly and fill in nicely.
Feldkamp informed the commission that work was progressing well on the Lower Grand Avenue Piedmont Manor entry column that was being water-blasted and re-landscaped after a large tree there had to be removed.
Frankel said youths hiking in the area discovered a large barbed wire fence on a steep hill at Dracena Quarry. The barbed wire was quickly removed and disposed.
"It was covered in ivy and had probably been there 60 or 70 years," Frankel said.