All good trees must come to an end

Feb 22, 2013

As a newspaper that has been around since 1884, The Mountaineer understands the importance of preserving history. It’s part of what we do everyday. The trees surrounding our courthouse on Main Street certainly have historical significance and it’s understandable that people would want to keep them around. The Mountaineer staff has one of the best views of those trees, especially in the fall when the leaves change colors.

We applaud residents’ efforts to keep those trees in tact as long as possible and appreciate the county commissioners doing their due diligence before taking any action. Tearing down trees is an emotional subject, especially in a time when “going green” is becoming a more popular way of life and protecting our national forests is of the utmost importance.

However, now the county has received a “Tree Health and Safety Analysis” report from certified arborist Bill Leatherwood stating that 11 of the 12 trees on the courthouse lawn pose a high risk to life or property.

The decision to remove the trees was difficult for commissioners to make, but it was the right decision. Even Commission Vice-Chairman Kirk Kirkpatrick, whose own grandmother was an adamant protector of the trees, realized that there was no other choice but to remove the trees for public safety.

The commissioners, who we’ve elected to make the best fiscal decisions for the county, had to consider the possible consequences of ignoring a certified arborist’s report and leaving the trees standing. The 11 sugar maples that Leatherwood reported are structurally damaged and internally decaying are a huge liability for the county.

Children play out in front of the courthouse often. The county could face an expensive lawsuit if one of the trees fell and injured someone walking by. The courthouse could be damaged if one of the trees fell and hit the structure. Paying for unnecessary lawsuits and avoidable courthouse repairs is not a good use of taxpayer dollars.

Leatherwood, a self-proclaimed “tree hugger,” told commissioners that just like humans, trees have an expected lifespan, and these trees have reached the end of theirs because of poor maintenance. Some of the trees are estimated between 80-100 years old.

“Replacing these trees doesn’t stop the history of maples on the courthouse lawn,” he said.

We agree with Leatherwood. Commissioners agreed to cut down the trees in the near future. As this piece of our history comes to an end, we hope the county will consider implementing a beautification effort on the courthouse lawn. Whether it’s with new trees or a flower garden, it should be something Haywood County residents and visitors can enjoy for many more years to come.

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