Brentwood park trees cleared despite objections

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I (40 South editor) had a meeting with Brentwood residents Barry Williams and Louise Charboneau Wednesday at 12:30 p.m. at the city’s Oak Tree Park to hear their objections to the city’s plan to remove trees there — I arrived 15 minutes early — the trees were already coming down.

The trees were removed to clear the way for a parking lot, according to Williams and Charboneau.

Williams and Charboneau had told the Board of Aldermen on Monday they wanted to pause the project — that there were alternatives. Ward 3 aldermen Andy Leahy also tried to arrange a meeting with Akande Monday night. That meeting was to happen Wednesday afternoon at the park, they said.

Williams and Charboneau spent the next hour on Wednesday trying to find various city employees to express their disappointment that the trees were removed without public notice and, (to them) without regard for citizens’ or aldermen’s concerns.

They went to city hall to speak with City Administrator Bola Akande: she was in a meeting, then had two in a row after that. She said she didn’t have time.

City attorney Kevin O’Keefe, coming out of a meeting, told them not to get between him and lunch, when they tried for five minutes with him.

After city parks director, Eric Gruenenfelder left the same meeting too fast for Williams to catch him at city hall they went to his office across the street. Charboneau asked him if the contractors had carte blanche to remove the trees; he said their contract was dated Dec. 1. She said she should have filed an injunction to stop it but didn’t have the funds.

Back at city hall Charboneau emailed Mayor Chris Thornton from the library, asking him if he had the authority to pause the work. “Seems like we could have been told Monday evening that the project had a go date of December 1,” she said. “Clear cutting acreage in this park is a travesty and a mortal sin.”

Williams, as he waited for Akande, said he was going to look into decertifying Brentwood’s Tree City U.S.A. classification. He listed four recent instances in the city where he has fought to save trees.

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Trees being removed Wednesday around noon at Oak Tree Park in Brentwood.
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Louise Charboneau and Barry Williams with a sign they had planned to hang on the trees before they were cut down.

27 COMMENTS

  1. The bigger question here is why a second parking lot. This is a small park, with a large lot at the other end. With the new lot, Brentwood has now expended hundreds of thousands of dollars to contractors on the new playground, and now a new lot. But there’s very little maintenance. Shingles on an existing pavilion have been hanging loose for years; concrete railings are broken; shrub honeysuckle covers virtually all of the park that’s not mowed and it’s up to me and a few others who walk the park to pick up the trash.

  2. I served on the BOA from April 2012 thru April 2016, as well as on the Public Works Committee during that same time. I cannot attest to what was presented to the Public Works committee on Oct 12, 2016, but during my 4 year tenure there was never a plan or discussion regarding cutting down these trees around Oak Tree Park to make way for a parking lot at the Litzsinger location. The only things I recall being discussed regarding Oak Tree Park, were updates and additional touch-ups on the brand new playground that was previously installed and future plans for putting in restroom facilities. As another resident mentioned, tree removal in this manner is very controversial and had this been a part of the future plans for Oak Tree Park and discussed during meetings in 2013, 2014 & 2015 it certainly wouldnt be taking so many residents, including myself, by surprise!

    • Cindy Manestar has great credibility here because she was a City official serving on both the Board of Aldermen and the board’s Public Works Committee during the 3-year period when the Oak Tree Park proposal was being developed. She says there was no talk of tree removals. And according to a friend, Lee Wynn seemed unaware of plans to remove trees when contacted last week. I suspect park officials deliberately concealed this aspect of the proposal from us in order to prevent public opposition. Brian Lake is right: Whoever did this should be fired.

  3. Doug Miner’s reporting of the events of Wednesday afternoon is accurate and reflects the rapid change of the nature of our trek to the north entrance (Litzsinger Rd.) entrance to Oak Tree Park.

    All that Barry and I had intended was to post a little sign on one of the doomed cypress trees to generate public conversation to delay the project if possible. We invited Doug to reach a wider audience than only the park’s users. He arrived early and found that the carnage had already begun.

    My initial and continuing emotions are sadness and disappointment: that the trees are gone, that the denizens of City Hall do not recognize that our natural environment is part of the public trust deserving fiduciary protection, and, that my almost four years spent as a “City Hall watcher” haven’t earned me a smidgen of trust by these same folks.

    Our public officials and staff can attest to my attendance at virtually all BOA, committee, and P & Z Commission meetings, including the litany of meetings provided by the Mayor in his reply. At no time was an environmental impact statement broached or provided. I TRUSTED, as did Russell Madden in his reply to 40 South: “…I just assumed I could trust our city officials to propose common-sense park improvements.”

    A well-respected speaker to environmental protection and the public trust in our age if global climate change is Oregon law professor Mary Christina Wood. See Wikipedia or for more depth .
    http://billmoyers.com/2014/09/19/natures-trust-new-approach-environmental-law/

    Wood states “The administrative state vests agencies with breathtaking power that came justified by one simple assumption: officials will deploy public resources and invoke their technical expertise on behalf of the public interest.” That interest no longer allows officials to “…pave paradise and put up a parking lot.”

    Tree policy is evolving in Brentwood and that evolution (revolution) demands the input of concerned citizens. Replanting one destroyed tree with two new ones is no panacea—you can’t replant forty year old trees. We recognize that we came in late with our protest—that a great deal of time and effort and money had been spent. We also recognize that city officials couldn’t speak to us with Doug Miner in tow, but that was the nature of the day. We can only look to and work for increased environmental protection of the community forest.

    In the meantime whether you call it Rachel’s challenge or a modern take on “Do unto others” please remember to BE KIND. Thank you.

    • Mrs. Charboneau is a community treasure whose only motives are to improve our city and protect our natural environment. We are blessed to have a citizen like her in our midst who’s willing to attend countless public meetings to monitor a city government that sadly needs to be monitored due to its history of corruption and incompetence. Recall the Grade “F” State Auditor Tom Schweich gave to Brentwood only 3 years ago.

      It’s not yet widely known, but Brentwood is experiencing a steady and troubling decline in sales-tax revenues — revenues that pay for most of our city’s operations. The trend began several years ago and has become a growing concern. Mayor Thornton discussed this at the Dec. 5 aldermanic meeting. At the same time gun-related crimes have rattled our city and prompted the aldermen to consider hiring two additional police officers at a net annual cost to the City of $140,000.

      Meanwhile the Parks Department is wasting taxpayer dollars and spoiling the natural beauty of Oak Tree Park by building an unneeded parking lot.

  4. Well, I can see some changes coming at the next Brentwood elections. Bolo should publicly reprimanded for saying she did not have time to meet with Louise and Barry. She works for them the tax payer, they pay taxes towards her salary. This city is getting to be more sad every year.

    • If you think someone should be reprimanded get city administrator name right her name is Bola and she is very accessible to all residents she may have just been busy at that time as there are more important things sometimes to deal with. Did they make an appointment or just show up and expect to be heard.

      • Hey, your pretty quick as you know who I meant. She should have at least taken the time to excuse herself and ask them to make an appointment. What would happen if a police officer stopped you and said, ” I want to speak with you,” and you said, “I don’t have time to speak with you now, can you please stop me later and we will talk then.” Now I ask you , do you like bolona sandwiches? Why do I ask, because that is what you will be eating in jail. I love Sheriff Joe.

  5. Dear Readers of 40 South News: I am very sorry to see that so many of you are upset by the removal of these trees. I want to share some additional information with all of you. The plan for Oak Tree Park was presented at public meetings on the following dates:
    June 25, 2013
    October 4, 2013
    October 21, 2013
    March 12, 2014
    April 10, 2014
    June 19, 2014
    March 2, 2015
    On October 12, 2016 the plan was presented to the Public Works committee of the Board of Aldermen who recommended it to the full Board of Aldermen unanimously.
    On November 7, 2016 the project plan and the contract with BBi was presented and approved by the Board of Aldermen on a 7-1 vote.
    All of these meetings were posted on the City website, bulletin board and open to the public. We are always very excited when our citizens care enough to come and get involved. Unfortunately, it sometimes seems that people are more inclined to get involved after the fact than during the planning process.
    I can tell you categorically, that no one in our City government takes cutting trees lightly and we are committed to planting 2 new trees for every one we take out. This plan was the result of many years of planning and work by our Parks Department professionals. I think it is fair to say that all of them are tree lovers too. When they determined the trees in question would be removed, it was after careful consideration of all available options.
    I would like to invite all of you to participate in the development of our Comprehensive Plan – Brentwoood 20/20: A Vision for the Future, which will include a review of the Parks Master Plan. You can sign up for notices of meetings on the City’s website.

    Chris

    • I know the plan for Oak Tree Park was presented publicly on several occasions, but I question whether the tree removals were clearly stated. I say this because no one I know remembers this part of the plan, and because tree removals are always controversial and so the City therefore might have wanted to downplay them. The mayor has a point — we residents need to become more engaged in planning our city’s future. But I’m busy and don’t have much time for city meetings, and so I just assumed I could trust our city officials to propose common-sense park improvements. I had no idea they would propose to cut down trees in the park for a parking lot. Stupid me! I should have learned my lesson about trusting Brentwood officials 5 years ago after our city administrator was hustled away in handcuffs. Bottom line: There is something terribly wrong with a city that values parking lots over trees in its parks.

  6. It seems that there are many concerned citizens here. Perhaps it’s high time that we citizens demand debates in our cities, prior to all elections. We could also petition to change ordinances on our books regarding which issues must require a vote before decisions are made.

    • In light of the city’s recent history of cutting down healthy city trees for indefensible reasons like repairing sidewalks and building parking lots, I propose the city be required to notify the trees’ owners — the city’s 8000 residents — whenever it proposes to remove any healthy trees, and to include the reason for the proposed action. This could be done via the quarterly “Brentwood Bulletin” newsletter and via the city’s website.

  7. There was no need for another parking lot at Oak Tree Park when the existing one is never fully utilized. Most times when I see it, it’s largely empty, and that’s because Oak Tree is a neighborhood pocket park that residents like to WALK to, often with their dogs. Who was the genius in city government who thought it would be wise to spend scarce city tax dollars — and it was 100% city tax dollars, no outside grant money — to encourage people to DRIVE to this park and park their cars on an ugly new asphalt lot? If wheelchair access was needed, the city could have created 2-3 disabled parking spaces at the park’s north entrance (Litzsinger & Rosalie). There was space available here for 2-3 spaces that wouldn’t have required the removal of any trees. Whoever did this should be fired by the city.

    • My thoughts exactly. I consider the whole area along the creek as an extension of my back yard. I walk it every day with my dog, pick up trash and try to keep it clean. I’m pretty pissed about this. The old song Big Yellow Taxi by Joni Mitchell keeps running through my head – “They paved paradise to put up a parking lot”.

  8. This entrance to Oak Tree Park was one of the most enchanting areas in Brentwood and one of the few to retain a semi-wild character. It is foolish to sacrifice it for a parking lot.
    This reiterates a common theme in Brentwood. Those in charge of our plantings and landscaping are apparently not professionals. They are sloppy workers and obtain mediocre results. For example the flowers and shrubs around the City Hall area are always sad-looking. Those responsible apparently have few artistic sensibilities. Surely we can do better. What a waste of city funds!

  9. Had anyone asked why the city felt there was a need to remove the trees? I don’t see the answer to that question in the article.

      • Oh that is fantastic. I guess they couldn’t use the parking lot that ALREADY exists at the other end of the park?

        • While I’m not an expert, my guess would be that the parking lot is going in to make the pavilion more accessible to those with mobility issues. I imagine that long walk and the slope it is on would be challenging for anyone with a wheelchair or Walker.

  10. So sad to see these trees coming down. Not sure what the agenda is in Brentwood anymore. Brentwood Blvd. is going to rack and ruin with tacky looking buildings – but they cut down beautiful trees!

  11. I’ve noticed over the past few years, in the Maplewood, Brentwood and Richmond Heights areas, more and more trees are cut down for commerce. Every tiny green space built on or buldozered level. It’s a shame.

  12. Brandon I’m grateful you never followed thru with running for office. Your views are sophomoric at best.

    We have no idea what her meetings were about. What if the meetings were concerning public safety, let’s not worry about that and talk with trees.

    And if you know anything about Louise she is not a sweet old lady. She pulls the strings on two alderman and believes she should be running the city.

    • Truth you need to stop hiding behind a made up name and tell the “truth” about who you are. You criticize Brandon and call him names because he challenges employees and representatives from our community for not answering questions. You say “Louise..she is not a sweet old lady,” but give no facts.

      Step up or leave it be.

    • I am also very glad I didn’t follow through with that. My point was, I don’t care how important her meetings were, it takes 2 minutes to acknowledge the Brentwood resident, and set up a time to meet. And “don’t get between me and my lunch” is beyond rude.

      That being said, I don’t go to meetings because I stopped caring 2 years ago. Takin Mayor Thornton at his word about all the dates these plans were presented, he’s right. Why were they trying to get involved the day the trees were cut down?

  13. For many years my husband & I fought the street dept. for their inexplicable, felling of apparently healthy trees. Ours was a lost cause as all involved in the crime were “just following orders”. Evidently the lessons we were taught in grade school, re: the value of trees to human survival, was too grand a concept to sink into some brains. I am so pleased that there are folks who care & are willing to seek out answers to this outmoded & damaging practice. Thank you Louise & Barry! Since, in my memory, the activity usually seemed to occur pre-winter, we could not help but wonder if the reason for it was based, simply, upon some folks in power wanting free firewood. Just joking, but maybe not!

  14. She doesn’t have time? Don’t get between him and lunch? These people forget that we are their boss, we are their employer. I wouldn’t tell my boss that I don’t have time for him, or not to get between me and my lunch. It’s time for them to get the boot when you can’t take a couple minutes out of your day to talk to a sweet little old lady.

  15. When I saw all those fences going up I knew bad things were going to happen. More than half the park is blocked off, what the heck are they doing? I guess you never heard that fighting city hall is a loosing battle. 🙁

    RIP to my some of my favorite bald cypress. At least the ones at McGrath are still standing (for now).

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