Dillon asks, ‘To cut or not to cut?’
DILLON – To cut or not to cut is the question Dillon Town Council members faced Tuesday, as the manager of a condo complex in town advocated for the removal of several dead trees near his complex.At issue is a stand of big, brown and very dead pines, a common site symbolizing Colorado’s ongoing drought and the pine beetle invasion that continues to spread through Summit County’s forests.The trees, located near the rec path above the Dillon Marina, could pose a hazard to passing cyclists or pedestrians, said Allan Hedin, resident manager of the Lodge at Lake Dillon. Along with the public safety issues, Hedin said there are aesthetic values at stake, as well as a potential fire hazard.”Nothing can kill a town’s budget faster than a million dollar lawsuit,” Hedin said, raising the specter of a tree falling on an unwary mom pushing a baby carriage along the path.”I don’t think the town is being too proactive on safety here,” Hedin said. “I’m trying to look out for the interests of my residents. I think I’ve got two or three good arguments here.”On the other hand, said Bonnie Boex, “Green is not always beautiful.” Standing dead trees, also called snags, are part of a dynamic forest ecosystem, providing habitat for cavity nesting birds and for insects that, in turn, are a food source for birds, Boex said.Known for her dedication to preserving bluebird populations in Summit County – especially near the shores of Dillon Reservoir – Boex also advocates for the preservation of bird and wildlife habitat in general. She doesn’t think the trees pose a hazard, and said that some residents may have unrealistic expectations of what a forest should look like. “This isn’t Aurora and it never will be,” Boex said, drawing a distinction between manicured municipal parks and the semi-wild forest environment found in close conjunction with many Summit County residential areas. Boex said she reckons the real issue has to do with the fact that property owners in the condo complex would like to have a clear view of the reservoir, unmarred by dead pines.Boex said the snags in question are providing habitat for flickers, as well as downy and hairy woodpeckers – all cavity nesters that hollow nests out of standing dead trees. Removal of several other trees in the area a few years ago chased away a pair of nesting bluebirds, Boex said, adding that she is still trying to lure them back to the area. She has also put up some nesting boxes in the area to try and provide alternate habitat in case the snags are cut at some point, she said.Town officials did not appear keen to cut the trees, but said they would take another look at the area to try and gauge any potential threat to passersby. “We are a certified Tree USA town and we value trees,” said town manager Jack Benson. “It’s always a balancing issue, views versus trees in this case,” Benson said, adding that he will take another look at the area.Benson said he would consider removing any trees that pose a hazard, and might also look into replanting the area with seedlings to improve overall forest diversity in the little grove.Bob Berwyn can be contacted at email@example.com.
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