No new trees have been planted around the Reed Opera House in downtown Salem because the tree wells in the newly laid sidewalk don’t match up with the holes in the existing awning.

“I alerted the City shortly after they started lining up the tree wells in the new sidewalk,” Roger Yost, owner of the Reed Opera House said. “They had no idea when they did it.”

When the awning was originally constructed, the holes were put in around the existing trees to provide room for tree growth and to allow in filtered sunlight.  When the new sidewalk was being constructed those trees were cut down and the sidewalk was laid according to the designed scoring pattern for new tree wells.

Aaron Kimsey, Construction Project Manager, said the City is aware of the situation and this has caused a delay in the planting of new trees.

“The holes in the awning are not symmetric or large enough anyway,” Kimsey said.

It would cost approximately $5,000 to $6,000 to fix the awning and to realign the holes with the new tree wells. Kimsey said this is the owner’s responsibility but that Yost is unwilling to go this route.

Yost said, “It’s still in question whether the city wants to address some corrections by paying to widen the canopy.”

Since no one can agree on what to do with the awning, alternative solutions being considered include planting smaller trees that are able to withstand the elements in the new tree wells, making the holes in the awning unnecessary, or widening the tree wells in the sidewalk to bring them into closer — although not perfect — alignment with the awning holes.

The question now is determining who is willing to take responsibility  for correcting this problem and which alternative solution would be best for all involved.

“We are open to options,” said Kimsey.

Yost has been working with the Parks Department, charged with planting the new trees, to find tree species that would be small but strong enough to thrive in the downtown environment.

There are a total of six tree wells around the Reed Opera House that need to be addressed with four on Court Street and two on Liberty Street. But with the holidays approaching, new tree planting will be put off until at least January 2.