Tree cuts anger Fisher Park residents

by Eric Ginsburg

Kay Lovelace stood under a small tree, only a few feet over her head, on Olive Street in Greensboro’s Fisher Park neighborhood. Looking up at it and pointing to where it had been cut back from the power line, she said, “I planted this pear tree.”

Walking down the street, she stopped a few feet later, acknowledging a plum tree that was also cut.

The fruit trees aren’t the only ones in the area that were cut. They made out much better than seven larger trees in the park a few blocks south that were trimmed so severely that the city’s urban forester, Mike Cusimano, recommended they be removed altogether because he didn’t think they would survive much longer, instead recommending smaller trees be planted there.

The cuts, which began around Jan. 18, are still being completed in order to prevent interference with power lines, including one that supplies energy to Cone hospital and NC A&T University. Duke Energy says the pruning is necessary so limbs don’t fall on or touch power lines, yet many residents in the historic Fisher Park neighborhood north of downtown object to what they call extreme and unnecessary cuts.

Lisa Young has lived in the neighborhood for 37 years and said she has never seen such dramatic cutting.

“Their argument is that if they do it this violently they only have to do it every eight to 10 years and that it saves them money, but I don’t think anyone is concerned about Duke not making enough money,” said Young, who lives on Magnolia Street. “It has to do with who goes home with the biggest chunk of money. It was like being attacked in my home because I’ve been living here so long.”

Duke Energy subcontracted with Asplundh Tree Expert Co. to carry out the trimming, which Duke district manager Davis Montgomery said is scheduled approximately every nine years to avoid more frequent cutting which would be more expensive, a cost he said would ultimately be passed along to customers.

Montgomery said he notified the city on Dec. 9 about the cuts, which were originally scheduled to begin Dec. 12. Because the cuts were scheduled in a historic district, Duke was supposed to receive a certificate of appropriateness from the city, and though it has in the past Cusimano said it initially was not obtained by Duke, though all of the paperwork is now in place.

Montgomery said Asplundh and the other companies with whom the utility subcontracts are expected to notify all affected residents with bright yellow door hangers providing them a 48-hour warning, but Cusimano said some residents said pruning happened the following morning, and numerous others said they weren’t notified at all.

“I would hope that [in the future] they are more diligent about giving notice,” said Cusimano, who added he has received many calls from upset residents about the extent of the cuts.

Mike Cowhig, who handles the administration of the Historic Preservation Commission, and Cusimano both said the cutting was drastic, but Cusimano added that Duke has so many miles of lines to maintain he can understand why they cut so infrequently, even if he wishes it were more often.