News

Timber! 60 trees get the ax

Orange paint on a section of the West Campus Trail near South 325th Place outlines areas where cottonwood trees have uprooted the asphalt. The city plans to remove the approximately 60 dangerous trees before the end of the year. They will be replaced with more appropriate species for the given location. - Jacinda Howard/The Mirror
Orange paint on a section of the West Campus Trail near South 325th Place outlines areas where cottonwood trees have uprooted the asphalt. The city plans to remove the approximately 60 dangerous trees before the end of the year. They will be replaced with more appropriate species for the given location.
— image credit: Jacinda Howard/The Mirror

Watch out below! Federal Way plans to topple approximately 60 trees along the West Campus Trail.

The trees, located between Southwest 325th Place and South 320th Street, are mostly cottonwoods, a fast-growing, top-heavy species with shallow roots and weak wood, according to a University of Tennessee Agricultural Extension Service document titled “Trees to Reconsider Before Planting.”

The trees are tearing apart the asphalt of the path, which is a northern extension of the BPA Trail, and pose a danger to the public, said parks and facilities manager Steve Ikerd. They will be replaced with safer species, he said.

“I’m a certified arborist and the last thing I want is to take down trees,” Ikerd said.

But in this case, the action is necessary, he said. On a particularly compromised section of the trail, near South 325th Place, damage caused by the trees’ roots can be seen in abundance. The emerging roots and breaking asphalt are outlined in orange paint. The cottonwoods are marked with an orange X.

Many of the trees pose a threat of falling as autumn and winter weather approaches, Ikerd said. During a storm last winter, several of the cottonwoods fell or broke and caused property damage, he said.

The city’s policy is to remove dead, dying, diseased and dangerous trees, spokeswoman Linda Farmer said. The cottonwoods and three alders planned for removal also fit this description, she said.

“We don’t want to send the message that every cottonwood is dangerous,” Farmer said. “Cottonwoods tend to be more prone to breakage, but not all are dangerous.”

These particular trees were not placed by the city, Ikerd said. Their seeds blew in and naturally rooted, he said. But, given they are dangerous, the city wants to remove them as soon as possible.

Doing so at one time, instead of paying to get rid of them and replace the damaged trail once every year or so, will be more cost-effective, Ikerd said. The city will hire a contractor to fall and remove the trees, he said. Another contractor will replace the asphalt trail.

The city has not sought bids for either job and is unsure how much the project will cost. The work must be done before the weather gets rainy — making the soil wet, the trees harder to fall and the asphalt more difficult to set, Ikerd said.

“Our goal would hopefully be to get all bids and get moving on this by the end of October, if at all possible,” he said.

A significant number of trees will be taken out, but not all of them, Ikerd said. The trail’s green canopy and neighbors’ privacy will remain, he said. The work is not likely to adversely affect the area’s habitat, city council member Dini Duclos said.

A letter will be sent to anyone owning property within 300 feet of the trail to make them aware of the project. The letter explains why the trees will be removed and reminds recipients they will be replaced. Cedar, willow, alder and dogwood trees, among possible others, will be planted.

“We realize when you start tearing down 60 trees of any nature, you’re going to get phone calls and concerns,” Ikerd said.

They new trees will grow to an estimated maximum height of 30 to 40 feet and, unlike the taller cottonwoods, are less likely to strike nearby structures if they do blow over during a storm, Ikerd said.

Duclos said she recently walked the trail and was tripping over the roots. Replacing the species with trees that will not cause damage is beneficial to the city and residents.

“I think it behooves us to take these trees out,” she said.

Contact Jacinda Howard: jhoward@fedwaymirror.com or (253) 925-5565.

Check it out:

The city is prepared to inspect any tree on city property that appears dead, dying, diseased or dangerous. Call (253) 835-6901.

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