Above: Photo supplied by our reader of trees cut down in Stoddard Park.
East Lansing Info (ELi) runs a regular service called Ask ELi to Investigate. Readers ask us questions and, if we think other readers might have the same question, we work to bring the answer.
This past weekend, a reader wrote to us:
“In June 2016 I took some photos of Marble school children on a picnic at Stoddard Park. I was at the same park today with my children, and I was shocked to see the entire tree line along the west side of the park is now gone. Trees as old as 150 years were cut down. The park looks very bare and now is mostly without shade. I understand that the power lines were along the treeline. But was such drastic tree cutting necessary? And why won't the city or BWL plant new trees in the path of those cleared, especially in our city parks? It was a shocking and sad thing to see during an afternoon at the park with my children on Mother's Day.”
Stoddard Park is described at the City website as “a two acre L-shaped park in the midst of a residential/student neighborhood,” namely the Bailey neighborhood. “There is a good mix of open space, shade and play structures and a paved concrete path weaves through the park east to west….There are mature trees throughout the park.”
Well, not so many mature trees anymore.
Cathy DeShambo, Environmental Services Administrator for the City of East Lansing, explains: “The work that the reader is referring to is the result of BWL utility tree trimming and removal. We had extensive talks on site with BWL and their contractor, Wright Tree Service, prior to this work. During those talks, BWL agreed to plant at least a dozen trees in Stoddard Park, in appropriate planting sites with adequate distance from power lines, later this summer/fall to offset the removals.”
Asked whether the City is satisfied with the work, DeShambo replies, “The work was completed in accordance with the BWL’s Utility Tree Trimming permit and to the standards in their permit.”
Some more background:
In late December 2013, our area was hit by a severe ice storm that brought down a lot of trees and tree limbs and caused widespread power outages. The outages lasted as long as 12 days, stretching well into January 2014, for many residents.
BWL struggled to get power restored, and it caused a lot of public outrage. As a result, two investigations were done into the outage, and both investigations found that BWL had failed to properly maintain lines in terms of surrounding vegetation in many areas. In older parts of East Lansing, BWL has essentially never done vegetation management. Now, trying to do catch-up, BWL and its contractors are cutting down a lot of old trees.
BWL has tended to insist that they follow “industry standards” in trimming. An earlier ELi investigation showed that BWL’s standards differ from Consumers Energy, the other big electrical service provider in our area.
A lawsuit brought by BWL against East Lansing homeowners who challenged them resulted in Ingham County Judge Clinton Canady finding that there are limits to BWL’s rights to cut.
Besides working to catch up on vegetation management, BWL is working to upgrade electrical service to East Lansing by installing higher voltage systems. This means having to cut trees even farther away from power lines, and is resulting in more aggressive cutting. We also reported on this.