Why the street trees by Fairmount Playfield are being cut down

The trees in the planting strip along Fauntleroy Way by Fairmount Playfield have caused some trouble in recent years – we can think of at least two cases of branches falling on the sidewalk/cars, like this one last September.

Still, some were concerned to see that all but a few have been removed this week. It’s partly related to the impending reopening of Fairmount Park Elementary, according to the response we received from Seattle Parks, and partly in advance of an impending sidewalk project:

The trees were removed for hazard. The species and growth of the tree (have) made them unreliable. They were pruned to mitigate hazards and slated for removal as part of the sidewalk replacement program in 2015 in cooperation with SDOT. We are removing the current trees to assure that the new grade-school-bus loading zone is safe this year. A plan is in development to replace similar-size trees in a manner that will not disrupt the new sidewalk.

Two trees had been taken down previously. Parks also recently put in a path along the south side of the park, leading from the sidewalk to the school.

21 Replies to "Why the street trees by Fairmount Playfield are being cut down"

  • denis August 1, 2014 (7:41 pm)

    What kind of tree are they? Who planted them in the first place? I hope they get replaced. Very sad.
    How is SDOT involved? Improving traffic flow?

    • WSB August 1, 2014 (7:59 pm)

      I wish I knew, but this is all we have, so far. Perhaps somebody out there will know. Re: SDOT – the planting strip is public right-of-way, though adjacent property owners are accountable for maintaining it – that’s the basic Seattle law. They also are accountable for the sidewalk. And of course, for safety of what happens on the road, and the inference here that another tree branch could fall, this time on a school bus … To be honest, I hadn’t realized until now that the Fairmount school buses would be using this area alongside the playfield.

  • Karen Lyons August 2, 2014 (6:51 am)

    A guess from the photo – Linden tree
    Linden trees are used by many communities as street trees and wind blocks. They, generally, have no problems but they are sensitive to drought and hot weather scald which may have weakened the trees? Or maybe they were just inconvenient for the bus drivers? Sad.

  • Mark Lewis August 2, 2014 (7:33 am)

    I wish we could find ways to accommodate the large native species of Douglas Fir and Cedar of the NorthWest into our city planning. It is to our misfortune that we cannot; they offer so much to the human soul as they mature.

  • Retired Arborist August 2, 2014 (8:22 am)

    The trees are Sweet Gum Trees. They are one of the worst trees to have around sidewalks as they have a very shallow rootsystem and invasive shallow roots. The trees are also very weak wooded and prone to breaking in storms and especially snow loads early in the season as the trees hold on to their leaves late into the winter. Once the trees start breaking up from past storms they become too needy of maintenance and end up needing to be removed. The early Seattle Head Arborist Marvin Black was using them as street trees 30 to 40 years ago but most of them have been removed due to these same reasons.

  • denis August 2, 2014 (8:32 am)

    I just curious how this process happens? SDOT drives around and see the trees and then checks with schools transportation? The bus driver’s call SDOT? Has this been in the works for a long time? Bus drivers not working uey? I just find these things interesting in how it all happens.

  • denis August 2, 2014 (8:38 am)

    Retired arborist. Thanks good information

  • Rick August 2, 2014 (8:43 am)

    City planing at it’s finest.

  • Vanessa August 2, 2014 (10:23 am)

    It is still so sad to see any trees destroyed. In the fall, the leaves were the last to change into all of their the mangnificent colors and held their beautiful displays long after others had dropped their leaves.
    Goodbye old friends, signed, Mother Earth

  • Mary Fleck August 2, 2014 (10:34 am)

    That field is very wet. It needs trees on the perimeter to absorb water. Would cottonwoods be good?

    Friends of the Urban Forest is working on writing a Tree Ordinance to address how and when trees can be removed.

    Mary Fleck
    co-chair, West Seattle Green Spaces Coalition

  • CandrewB August 2, 2014 (11:55 am)

    The field is very wet. What is the drainage issue? I live near there and try and run the perimeter from time to time but in the winter it becomes a bog.

  • Möbius August 2, 2014 (1:36 pm)

    I noticed the signs last week and was, initially, up in arms. Then I took a close look at the trees. They were in pretty bad shape-many large broken branches, strange misshapen canopies, and a lot of signs of trees in distress.

    I like the idea of trying to help the bog with planting new trees…Fairmount Park is terrible from November thru April … Now that there is a new school there, is anyone looking at how to mitigate the mud or will kids be wearing welling tons to school?!?

  • patrick pavey August 2, 2014 (8:04 pm)

    Just a bit of perspective. The trees being removed have been a hazard for a number of years. More than once during some of our snowstorms, large limbs came down onto cars parked on Fauntleroy. Yes, they have been trimmed but I don’t think these sweet gums take well to trimming. Also, anyone that has walked along the sidewalk of the park can see the severe upheaval these trees have caused. Were they good choices back 40 or 50 years ago when they were planted? Obviously not. Now someone needs to press for proper replacements, trees with deeper root systems, that can withstand the snow loads and winds, that are drought tolerant.

    As for the bogginess of the park, you hit it on the head, this area was a large bog that was turned into a park. There are a number of natural underground springs that feed into this basin. The Parks have made numerous attempts to mitigate this problem with no success. Once a bog, always a bog.

    As for the school buses, this was a proposal that came from the school district before reopening Fairmount Park. The handling of full sized buses in front of the school (loading and unloading) was very problematic before the school closed. The proposed solution (much to the liking of the local residences) was to move the loading and unloading of large school buses onto Fauntleroy. This is the reason for the new all weather pathway. As for bus drivers complaining I don’t know but I suspect it is more a case of coincidence and just another good reason to remove the dangerous trees. AND, I suspect SDOT gets involved in a number of ways, traffic safety being one and who do you think will be replacing the terrible sidewalk?

  • wsguy August 2, 2014 (9:31 pm)

    I could be mistaken but I believe SDOT has a right – of – way tree trimming division that has the responsibility of maintaining trees on/over/around arterials. They trim the trees to maintain height clearance requirements according to code, etc. (So big commercial trucks aren’t running into giant branches, etc). I’ve seen them go up and down 35th sw, 5th Ave downtown and many others. That is probably why they are involved.

    • WSB August 2, 2014 (10:49 pm)

      Adjacent property owners have the accountability of maintaining trees along arterials and other streets, unless the tree was planted by the city. Doesn’t mean a government agency might not step in and do some cutting for reasons such as the City Light get-the-tree-out-of-the-wires cutting in recent years, but otherwise, it’s up to the property owner (Parks in this case).

  • Timh2o August 2, 2014 (10:50 pm)

    I believe there coming down due to the Fairmont school loading zone that’s going in at that location. Maybe?

    • WSB August 2, 2014 (10:57 pm)

      That’s mentioned in the story/

  • Vanessa August 4, 2014 (11:33 am)

    on a side note, where exactly is the springs, in Fairmont Springs? Anyone know? Dried up? Runs underneath something?

  • wondering August 4, 2014 (8:54 pm)

    I’m sad to see trees easily devalued. Loss of habitat must be taken more seriously and considered more broadly. It takes minutes to destroy trees that need years to mature. These trees were beautiful in the Fall and they offered so much shelter and natural shade to the park. I think this needed to be a decision given to the park community not a decision made privately by Parks. Let the users of the park decide. Thank you WSB for covering this story.

  • Edward August 14, 2014 (8:22 am)

    They were beautiful mature trees that provided amazing fall color into December and shade most of the year…..really sad to see them go….let’s hope the replacements are as good

  • Sally August 15, 2014 (12:02 pm)

    That stretch of Fauntleroy looks so naked now! It was very upsetting to see them cut down. Depressing….

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