Which Trees Lost and Saved in Cutting that Starts Today?

Thursday, March 7, 2019, 7:01 am
Alice Dreger

The City of East Lansing has advised members of the community that about 30 trees are about to be taken out as part of the sewer project on Michigan Avenue near Harrison Road, adjoining the Chesterfield Hills neighborhood.

Department of Public Works staff acted to save as many trees as possible in the plans, and the City is emphasizing that “all of the trees that are removed will be replaced as a part of the site restoration at the completion of the project.”

But which trees will be lost, and which saved?

Chesterfield Hills resident Michael Halbisen has now conducted what he calls an “informal tree survey summary” to answer that question, and he has shared his findings with ELi.

Asked why he undertook the survey, Halbisen explains it was “because I felt the City's press release was rather vague on specifically what was going to be done in terms of tree removal, and somewhat misleading about how they would ‘replace’ the mature trees they are planning to cut down.”

Halbisen says that, “as soon as they marked the trees,” he went down to see which were designated for cutting.

“And I was pretty happy to see that they are not planning a total clear-cut,” he says. “Unfortunately, they are still planning to completely clear-cut the section between Michigan/Harrison and University, which is certainly going to cause some traffic noise issues in my part of the Chesterfield Hills neighborhood.”

Halbisen found in his survey that most of the trees marked for removal are smaller hardwoods or smaller ornamental trees and bushes.

“I initially estimated that the hardwoods were mostly a mix of Norway maples and ash trees, which are prone to disease and not good landscape trees,” he reports. “However, someone later pointed out to me that most of these hardwoods designated for removal are likely disease-resistant elms, which, in contrast, are appropriate for urban landscape planting.”

He estimates that “it will take approximately 30+ years to replace these 20-50 foot tall mature trees. The ornamentals I observed appeared to be crabapple trees, dogwoods, forsythia bushes, and other relatively fast-growing species which would probably take closer to 5-15 years to replace.”

Groups of slow-growing yews will also be taken out. Halbisen says this is too bad, because these “provide year round privacy screening and sound abatement for the Chesterfield Hills neighborhood. Unfortunately, these yew trees lie in what appears to be a ‘clear-cut’ zone along the median between the intersection of University Drive and Michigan Avenue.”

Halbisen reports that he “was pleased to see that many large, mature trees were not marked for removal, as they provide a considerable benefit to the area in terms of noise abatement and contribute substantially to the shade canopy in the summer.”

All in all, his estimate found more trees to be removed (37) than the City’s count of 30.

Halbisen has praise for City staff: “I’m happy to say that they have been responsive to my concerns. The general philosophy I’ve encountered from them is that they strongly advocate saving every tree unless removal is absolutely necessary.”

You can read his complete report here.

According to a press release from the City, “The Infrastructure Restructure project will result in critical underground infrastructure improvements along Michigan Avenue, from Harrison Road to Highland Avenue; at the Michigan-Harrison intersection; and along some local streets in the area.”

Read more about the project in ELi’s report from Jessy Gregg.


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