Arborist says Seattle needs to do more to prevent tree-falling deaths

SEATTLE – This winter took a toll on our trees. In fact, the city of Seattle has tagged 4,500 trees they say may need to come down.

The crews will start in Lincoln Park and five other parks: Seward, Schmitz, Discovery, Carkeek, and Interlaken.

“Everything is gorgeous about Lincoln Park,” said grandmother Lou Largent.

That’s why Largent brought her grandkids from the playground to the waterfront to the staggering trees. This is a gem of a park.

“They need to keep this place safe, because it’s so beautiful and there are so many trees,” said Largent.

That’s why Seattle Parks plans to cut down 91 trees in Lincoln Park.

Arborist Michael Oxman says he’s spent years trying to get the city to do that more.

“That defect could be grounds for concerns,” said Oxman.

At Lincoln Park you can see blue tags on 632 trees, but only 91 will be removed.

“The twigs they’re attached to sometimes get little nobs on them. Branches can get cracks in them. The trunks can have cavities in them. And the roots can just be dead,” said Oxman.

Oxman says with just 18 arborists for the 1.5 million trees in Seattle, the city is more reactive than proactive.  He says they need more arboristS and more funding for trees.

“It's way better for us if we can take care of our trees so we don’t have problems down the road,” said Oxman.

Problems that turn into deadly accidents like what happened in Seward Park when a tree fell and killed a man in March.

“It’s bad enough to let the tree deteriorate but to not notice it because you’re not looking at trees is grounds for damage awards,” said Oxman.

He says the city should be keeping a database and detailed log of planting, pruning, and removing efforts, but instead…

“Our city staff has decided that’s too much trouble until somebody gets killed by a tree and all of a sudden then drop everything else and then come up with a really expensive plan,” said Oxman.

The city’s plan is to start next week to remove the 91 trees in Lincoln Park, which should take about two months. It says two new trees will be planted in the park where each tree was removed.

Another concern from environmental groups is the city’s plans to cut down the trees and leave them on the ground. Some fear because it is nesting season for animals, the downed trees will interfere with their natural habitats.

The city argues the trees will provide nutrients to the forest floor and surrounding trees.