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Village trees 'massacred'; citizen upset

Marie Havenga • Jul 21, 2015 at 1:18 PM

Consumers Energy recently removed more than 100 trees in the village because they were interfering with power lines, according to the utility company's forestry communications director, Jon Hall. The company trimmed another 100 or so trees to clear space for wires, Hall said.

While Hall and village officials say the trimming and removal is necessary for reliable electricity, some area residents aren't admiring the fall tree scene.

Spring Lake Township resident Mary Thornsen said she was shocked when she drove by the Savidge Street and Lake Avenue intersection to pick up her kids from school and saw mature trees that had been cut down.

“It just looks horrible there,” she said. “It just really changed the aesthetics and it made me really angry that, with one fell swoop, they took the trees out and completely changed the look of that corner. That's not something we can fix or bring back.”

Hall said village officials requested that the sycamore trees at that intersection, as well as several others around the village, be removed instead of trimmed as originally planned.

Village Public Works Director Roger Belknap said the property owners wanted those trees removed.

Belknap said the village will replant two low-growing trees for every one that was removed.

“Through our ordinances and past history, we have a legacy of being a Tree City (USA)," he said. "That's not going to change.”

Chris Southerland said he gave the OK to have the sycamore tree cut down in the village right of way in front of his home, 105 S. Lake Ave., because he was given the impression that it was diseased. Standing next to a pile of logs and 3-foot-diameter trunk pieces that once made up the tree, Southerland said, “I don't see any sign of disease.”

Belknap said the decision to cut down rather than trim was made on trees that had the potential to become a threat to wires again in the near future. Belknap and Village Manager Chris Burns said aesthetics also played into the decision.

“Sometimes the trimming is more unattractive than removal and replanting,” Burns said. “Depending on how severe the trimming is, the tree may not survive anyway.”

Burns said she has received complaints about the recent tree removal and cutting, but they were from people who drive by, not from the property owners where trees were removed. She said the communication between the utility company, village officials and property owners was good.

“It's always hard to see mature trees disappear because they serve a wonderful purpose for the environment and for aesthetic reasons, but I also appreciate having electricity at my house,” Burns said. “We have to understand when people planted trees 30-40 years ago, they didn't pay attention to where they were planting. We can't plant large canopy trees beneath power lines.”

Hall said complaints are part of the territory.

To read more of this story, see today’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.

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