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Dozens of trees removed in Kirkland, upsetting some residents; Village says it was necessary for sewer work

KIRKLAND – Some residents of the village of Kirkland have expressed frustration with the village’s government over the removal of dozens of trees last week to make way for a new curb and storm sewer.

Kirkland’s Village President Ryan Block said the village worked with an engineer and contractor to determine if it would be possible to install the new storm sewer and curb for roadway improvements without bringing down the trees.

“It was determined that if we tried to dig around the trees to install the new storm sewer or put in the new curb, the trees would have either fallen over due to poor root integrity or they would have died completely within the next few months,” Block said. “Therefore, the safest, most viable solution for the village and our residents was removal of the trees to allow for the infrastructure work.”

Block also said many of the trees were old and rotted in their centers. However, Kirkland resident Dawn Darling disputed the claim. She said she saw a tree taken down across the street from where she lives and didn’t see any damage to it.

“Of course he found some that were damaged and were rotted, of course, and I’m not suggesting those trees should have been saved,” said Darling. “I can even understand that this may have had to happen in the way that it did, with them all coming down, with the scope of work that they’re doing.”

“They like to say that they were diseased, and a handful of them were, but a lot of them were healthy old trees,” another resident of Kirkland, Tammy Hamrick said. “Of course I’m not an engineer ... but it just seems like other cities have figured out how to do infrastructure projects and still protect the natural resources around them, DeKalb included.”

That being considered, Darling said her concern is how they were notified. Hamrick echoed her sentiment, she said she understands the government posted about meetings but doesn’t think local officials were very transparent.

“People go to meetings when they have a concern but we didn’t know enough to know we should be concerned,” Hamrick said. “I mean, we’re all in favor of an infrastructure project, but if you don’t indicate to people that ‘Hey, this project is going to result in fifty mature trees coming down,’ we don’t know to be concerned about that.”

Hamrick said she thinks it would have been helpful to have been told what the project was going to entail outside of a meeting.

Block said he and the village board are trying their best to improve infrastructure in the village and the trees were an unfortunate impediment which needed to be removed. He said the village used several means in the past 18 months to share information with Kirkland residents about the matter.

“These include our village website, village Facebook page, text messaging system and newsletters or informational page in our utility billing. Regardless of the means of communication, we usually have very few, one to two, participants at our village meetings,” Block wrote.

Block did acknowledge there was an issue that hindered the village’s communication regarding the timing and how quickly the trees were removed.

“The contractor for tree removal contacted us Monday stating they had an immediate opening and would begin removing trees on Tuesday, so more notice with regards to that aspect would have been better for the village to communicate,” Block said. “But regardless, the tree removal was necessary due to the scope of the project.”

The tree removal and the communication surrounding the matter isn’t the only thing Darling and Hamrick were upset by. Darling said she has been told by Block that they are not allowed to plant any new trees in parkways. It was explained to her that because of ongoing maintenance issues and costs, the village no longer wants them to plant trees in parkways. The pair said they believe lack of trees is detrimental to the village.

Darling

During a Village Board meeting on Aug. 1, Hamrick said they asked the board to consider a replanting list. She said the board seemed open to the idea and the implementation of it would go a long way towards making her happier about the ordeal.

“But at the same time I still worry that this whole idea, whenever a tree is in the way it’s going to come down,” Hamrick said. “So I hope they actually, as they move on with different projects, also make it a priority to save the old trees whenever possible.”

Block said several pieces of good information were provided to the board during the Monday meeting. The potential for the creation of a parkway tree planting permit was discussed, which would allow the village to ensure only trees that are safe for parkway planting are planted, while also ensuring adequate space between the curb and the sidewalk is maintained. The board will continue its discussion on the matter during its meeting next month.

“I’m cautiously optimistic that the current board is a little more in favor of that,” Hamrick said.