- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 16, 2002

Residents in a tree-lined neighborhood near Dupont Circle are angry that a city work crew chopped down what appeared to be a healthy sugar maple on their street last week, a complaint that officials with the District's tree and landscaping division "take very seriously."

"Last I remember the tree was vibrant. I don't think there was anything wrong with it at all, and all of a sudden it was gone," said Lori Sheldon, a resident of the 2100 block of Newport Place NW, where a crew drove up Feb. 7 and snipped from the tree's top branches before tearing the whole maple down.

Other residents of the block said the crew chopped the tree down without informing anyone that it was slated to be removed.

"It's really been upsetting me," said Mrs. Sheldon, who with her husband was drawn to the quaint street six months ago because she liked the ambiance and shade offered by its many trees. "It's sad. Maybe they made a mistake and cut down the wrong tree."

Mark Buscaino, chief of the tree and landscaping division of the D.C. Department of Transportation, said Will Craft, a professional arborist on the city's payroll, clearly "marked several trees on that block, including the one at issue."

"We take this stuff very seriously," he said. "We have a vested interest in protecting the trees in this city, and we're concerned when we hear complaints like this, because removing a healthy tree is completely counterproductive to what we're about."

Mr. Buscaino said a tree that looks healthy actually may have fungi at its base or structural problems "such as cavities or decaying interior portions."

He said a tree with these problems might still grow leaves during the summer, adding that a healthy-looking tree might be cut down if it is too close to a fire hydrant or was planted improperly.

A woman who lives on the street said, "The story here is that you shouldn't be cutting down a single tree in this city because of global warming this city needs every tree it can get."

The woman, who asked not to be identified, has lived on Newport Place for the past eight years. She said she vaguely recalls the sugar maple, which stood diagonally across from her house, but is not surprised that neighbors are upset about its sudden absence.

Mr. Buscaino yesterday sent Mr. Craft to Newport Place to talk with neighbors and examine the tree stump to ensure that no mistake was made. "We really try to communicate as best as possible with the communities we're working in," he said.

Peter Keating, another resident on the street, said that although he was unfamiliar with the specific tree at issue, "quite a bit of tree work [has been] going on our street during the last couple weeks" and there was practically no effort on the part of the city to notify the neighborhood about what was going on.

Residents are wondering when trees will be planted to replace the sugar maple and other trees if they are chopped down. "That tree provided a lot of shade," Mrs. Sheldon said. "We would like a new one planted in its place."

Mr. Buscaino said the earliest the trees can be replaced is October. "We plant 4,000 trees annually on a rotating basis," he said.

Not everyone living in the neighborhood is annoyed about the tree removal. Tina Boynton, who lives in front of a tree that has been clearly marked for removal, said, "I don't really care if they cut it down. It is kind of annoying, dropping stuff all over the place."

Another resident, the unofficial "mayor" of the street, said city officials were right to cut down the tree, which was one of several dead trees in the area.

"The city knows where every tree is," said Dick Nugent, who has lived on the street for 30 years. "Those trees have been dead for a while. The city should take them down."

Jabeen Bhatti contributed to this report.

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