The city of Bellevue is investigating the cutting of an 80-year-old box elder tree on city property along Second Avenue that may have been in violation of a city ordinance.
The tree, bordering property belonging to Sarah Long, was one of many designated as "heritage trees" by city officials when the city conducted an inventory of significant trees nine years ago.
The city encourages landowners to care for landscaping within the city's right of way, but the tree ordinance requires approval from the city to remove any tree on city property. If a tree is removed or damaged without approval, the person responsible can be held liable for the value of the tree.
City Administrator Tom Blanchard said the city was not contacted before this tree was cut.
Former Bellevue City Councilman and certified arborist Jon Wilkes brought the matter to the City Council's attention Tuesday night, saying the city should seek recompense for the value lost.
"This is a loss to everyone in the community," Wilkes said.
Long said in an interview that she was unaware of the city's ordinance requiring permits to remove trees on city property. She said she hired a tree specialist to trim several maple trees on city property nearby at a cost of $1,900.
"He said the box elder tree was infested and had a split trunk and had to come down," Long said. "I didn't know that I had to contact anybody about it. It was endangering my customers and my family. Trees die, they get sick and you plant new ones. Life goes on."
The value of the tree has not been determined.
Bellevue became the first "Tree City USA" in the Wood River Valley seven years ago after establishing a tree ordinance and tree committee and conducting an inventory of significant and valuable trees in the city.
Tree City USA designations, given in association with the U.S. Forest Service, provide cities with support and recognition for maintaining so-called "urban forests."
The Tree City USA program is co-sponsored by the Arbor Day Foundation.
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