People who were driving along West Stewart Avenue called Puyallup City Hall earlier this month to ask about a crew that was chopping down 40 flowering pear trees underneath power lines between 5th and 12th streets.
Chris Beale, a certified arborist and associate planner for the city, was prepared.
“Quite a lot of calls came in,” Beale said. “Half of them were asking why the trees were being cut down, and the other half were asking about what would become of the firewood.”
For tree lovers, it ended up being a false alarm.
A Puget Sound Corps work crew is helping Puyallup manage and maintain its urban forestry resources this month. The work is supported by a grant through the state Department of Natural Resources and its Urban Forestry Restoration Project.
The trees were removed because they were inappropriately planted underneath power lines years ago, Beale said. They’re OK if they’re up to 25 feet tall, but the ones in question had reached 40 feet, Beale said.
The trees were removed to prepare the site for an upcoming Arbor Day celebration, which will be held from 9 a.m. to noon April 19. That’s when 50 shorter tree species will be planted in their place. Puget Sound Energy will help with the cost of the new trees, Beale said.
The crew also has worked to restore planting along the Puyallup River and has removed English ivy in the same area. Twenty to 25 residential areas have been identified where pruning is needed to provide clearance for street sweepers and school buses.
“One of the cooler things we did was partner with Puyallup School District to prune the red oak trees at Kalles Junior High,” Beale said. “That shows the city is trying to add capacity to our maintenance staff but also add capacity to other agencies like the Puyallup School District. We’re really trying to use this grant to add capacity for everyone.”
Beale said there are four people on the crew, plus a second group staffed by the state Department of Ecology. The work is valued at $15,000, Beale said.
Puyallup was first awarded a work crew assistance grant in January 2013. Work was completed last June. This month’s focus is supported by a grant the city received last fall.
“As long as they keep offering the grant, we will keep applying for it,” Beale said. “Because the capacity this grant offers far exceeds the effort it takes to apply.”
Micki McNaughton, a spokesperson for Department of Natural Resources, said the Urban Forestry Restoration Project is funded under the Jobs Now bill, which was signed into law in 2012.
“There is a great deal of desire to keep this work going,” McNaughton said. “We would like to see the Legislature renew the funding.”
Current work funded under the Jobs Now bill will continue through September.Reporter Andrew Fickes can be reached at 253-552-7001 or by email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter, @herald_andrew.