By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
Limb by limb, the giant elm tree at the base of the Conneaut sledding hill is being taken down today. Sledding will resume on the hill either late this afternoon or Friday morning.
The stump from the towering tree will be removed later.
“We didn’t take this decision lightly,” Assistant Municipal Administrator Joe Fawcett said this morning. “Nobody wanted to remove an iconic part of Bowling Green.”
But the risk from the rotting tree was too great, he said.
“We don’t want to put people using city parks at risk,” Fawcett said.
The towering elm tree on Conneaut hill had long provided shade in the summer and something for sledders to swerve around in the winter. But on Monday, yellow “caution” tape was stretched around the hill, warning sledders to stay away.
“A very large crack has developed in the tree,” Municipal Administrator Lori Tretter told City Council on Monday. “This large part of the tree is separating from the rest of the tree.”
Though city officials heard from only a couple people about the tree, they were aware that the issue was being hotly debated on social media.
“There are some people who were concerned and wished another decision was reached,” Fawcett said.
But the city’s decision was not rash, he said.
“We’ve been monitoring this for years,” Fawcett said. “The level of risk is so great we had to close the park to remove the tree.”
The giant tree was examined by Bowling Green’s city arborist and by an Ohio Department of Natural Resources arborist. The two came to the same conclusion.
“We couldn’t have children on that hill with that tree there,” Tretter said.
The city has tried for years to stretch out the life of the stately elm tree. Years ago, some limbs were cabled together in order to shore up the aging tree, Fawcett said. But that was only a short-term fix.
The city faced some options. First, cut down the elm. Second, close the park until the tree came down on its own. Third, aggressively prune the tree, removing about two-thirds of the tree and making survival very difficult.
To make the loss of the tree a little more palatable, the lumber from the elm will be used to make some benches near the sledding hill at Conneaut and Haskins roads.
“We want to make something good out of a bad situation,” Fawcett said.
Also, more trees will be planted in the park to offer shade in the future.
At the same the tree is being taken down, sanitary sewer work is being done in the parking lot of Conneaut-Haskins Park. That work is also expected to be complete by the end of Friday.