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Not Another Maple Tree?

A lone maple tree remains near the 5th Street Public Market and the new boutique Inn at the 5th. But not for long. Cutting Eugene’s urban forest has long been a sore point in town, and once the orange signs were posted warning of the tree’s fate, people began to question why this tree has to go.

Like the maple trees that once lined Pearl Street, this last maple is considered by the city of Eugene to be dead and dying. In April the decision was made to cut it down, according to Urban Forester Mark Snyder with Eugene Parks and Open Space. “I’ve been noting the tree’s decline for a number of years,” he says. 

Last summer Snyder recalls the tree beginning to show a lot of dying branches and yellowing. As of right now the tree is considered a safety issue because there’s the possibility that it might fall down, he says.

Last year several bigleaf maples shading the Community Center for the Performing Arts’ WOW Hall were slated to be chopped down by the city, which cited safety issues. The WOW Hall hired an arborist and tree risk assessor to give a second opinion and worked out a deal with the city that allowed two of trees to be maintained for long enough to give replacement trees a chance to grow.

Urban trees, or street trees as they are often called, provide shade that reduces cooling costs in the summer and are said to reduce stress for urban dwellers as well as improve air quality in cities.

The main reason that Snyder has been monitoring the 5th Street Public Market tree is because of prior topping. “When you top a tree it’s a bad pruning method — in fact it’s illegal — but it still gets done,” he says. “It’s an old-time practice.” He suspects that the topping on this particular maple might have first been done all the way back in the 1940s. Over the years the branches have gotten progressively worse because of the practice, he says.

According to Snyder, topping results in new branches sprouting that are only attached to the outer ring of wood. Most healthy branches come from within, internally. The shallow branches as a result of topping end up dying.

The work order to cut the tree down has gone through, but Snyder is uncertain when the contract will fall in to place and the sawing carried out. 

Last fall, the maple trees that were cut down near the hotel were repurposed as furniture in rooms and the lobby.