Tree removal sparks civil strife at city offices

A flowering pear tree was cut down Thursday morning at the city offices on Northgate Lane, stirring enough emotions to spark a debate between city departments.

Carson City Building Department employees watched aghast as a city Parks Department crew showed up unannounced, and cut down the tree just outside their offices.

Usually, Building Department and Community Development Department officials in the adjacent offices know about buildings and trees going up or down in Carson City. This time they were caught off guard on their own front yard.

"I think they should have talked to us and notified us before taking down the tree," one city worker said.

City building technician Jonni Moon saw three park trucks drive up in the morning.

"I assumed they were only trimming it," Moon said. "I just couldn't believe they were taking it down. Carson City is known as a Shade Tree City. We live in a desert, for God's sake. Let's keep the trees we have."

Laura Lau, another building technician, already misses seeing the blooming tree in which two sparrows were seen trying to build a nest a few weeks ago.

"It's devastating," Lau said. "The first thing I thought was there are not enough trees in Carson City. Why are they taking it down? If it was that sickly, why was it starting to bloom?"

People at the Community Development Department were less emotionally stricken by the tree's removal, but principal planner Rob Joiner was surprised parks officials didn't first consult with him or department director Walt Sullivan.

"Walt is called the mayor of Northgate and things should pass through him," Joiner said.

Sullivan joined the fray: "First they take the cottonwood at the library, now the pear tree on Northgate. What's next? Are they going to go after the redwoods?"

Parks Supertintendent Scott Fahrenbruch, in turn, was caught off guard by the outcry from the city offices at Northgate.

"In hindsight, I wish we would have contacted them first," Fahrenbruch said. "I didn't think there would be such an attachment to a pear tree."

Fahrenbruch said a four-foot split in the trunk and a weak root structure could have caused the tree to topple onto the Building Department roof.

The Northgate crew, however, reasoned that a trim would have solved all problems.

Another Northgate employee suggested the real reason the tree was cut down was because pears would fall onto the sidewalk and parks crews would have to clean them up.

City officials typically take days and weeks to study a tree identified as being a danger before taking action. Such was the case with the hollow cottonwoods recently removed in the westside historic district.

Fahrenbruch, however, moved much swifter with the Northgate pear.

He said a parks employee noticed the split trunk Wednesday afternoon and Fahrenbruch hurried out to take a look. He decided to have it taken down the next day.

"The tree wasn't a danger of falling on anybody, but it was a danger to the property," Fahrenbruch said. "We did in-house removal. If we didn't take it down now, it would have been more costly to the taxpayer because at a later date (if it falls onto the building) we would probably contract the job out."

Fahrenbruch said a new pear tree of a similar size will be planted at that location in spring.

"We do have a tree replacement program," he said. "We will replace the tree by the end of April."


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