Backed by more than 300 signatures and testimony from a parade of witnesses, Donna Homer of Sunnyside made her pitch to the city council last night in support of keeping trees the city wants to remove from Central and Upland parks.
"In my estimation they are very nice trees," Homer said of the 34 trees that need to be removed from Central Park, according to an arborist's report commissioned by the city.
In asserting the trees could be preserved with pruning, Homer said they should remain because of the shade and beauty they bring to the park.
In particular, she expressed hopes the three trees overlooking a play area could remain as historical landmarks because of their age. In addition, she said those trees are the only shade for parents while watching their children swim in the city pool.
In all, nine area residents made similar appeals to council during a public meeting.
They ranged from Paula Passmore, whose grandparents were pioneers in Sunnyside, to a shy 6-year-old, Connor Kuehn, who asked his father to tell council that the trees should be kept because they produce green leaves, which produce oxygen.
What was perhaps the most compelling argument on behalf of the trees came not from a Sunnyside resident, but from Yakima arborist Scott Wendt.
Wendt is an arborist with Wolff's Tree Service, which ultimately submitted the lowest, and winning, bid of just over $14,800 to work on the trees in Central and Upland Parks.
Wendt's company provides tree care service for the City of Yakima and the Yakima Country Club. He took issue with a report by another arborist Sunnyside used to base its decisions on tree removal.
"I came up with 19 trees that need to be removed (from Central Park)," Wendt said. He suggested the three trees by the play area could remain, with proper trimming. In addition to taking out the 19 trees, Wendt said he would trim back the 15 trees previously designated for removal. The four trees in Upland Park, he added, will need to be removed due to root damage.
In reply to claims from some in the audience that limbs only blow down on windy days, City Manager Bob Stockwell said limbs from damaged trees can fall at any time. Pointing to an example from a city he previously worked for, Stockwell said a mother and daughter were killed when a limb fell on them.
Stockwell added that six large limbs have fallen at Central Park just since July 10 of this year. One of the limbs weighed in at 600 pounds, he said.
With a commitment to closely monitoring the condition of the city's parks and trees in the future, council approved a measure calling for tree removal and pruning by Wolff's Tree Service.
Stockwell said he'd like to see work begin right away on the trees. Wendt later said that once work gets started it will take about four days to complete the tree pruning and removal.