In a scenario familiar to those who watched cutting of mature trees on State Street outside the US Bank, a set of three Upright European Hornbeam trees on High Street between State and Ferry are scheduled for removal.

The initial request came last July from the owner of the 180 High Street SE building, Steven Toney.  Because the trees are in a historical district, removal required approval by both Public Works Director Peter Fernandez following a recommendation by the citizen’s Shade Tree Committee, and by City of Salem’s Kimberli Fitzgerald, who makes administrative decisions on “Minor Historical Reviews.”

In December, the Shade Tree Committee recommended removing two trees, but keeping one.  In January, Fernandez overruled the Shade Tree Committee and recommended removing all three.  In March, Toney submitted an application to remove, “these three trees as they were decaying and cracking sidewalks with their roots.”

However in April, Fitzgerald’s decision, which was also for removal of all three, noted that the trees were “not diseased.”

Elwood Newhouse, of Elwood’s Tree Service, a certified arborist, agreed with Fitzgerald in April that the trees were healthy, although he acknowledged that they were “causing a very small amount of lift to sidewalk like a lot of other street trees.”

However, Newhouse argued that, “This problem can easily be fixed by grinding the small lift. Roots can be pruned along with the canopy for better structure. The trees have a great defense system and will tolerate some wounding. There are many things that can be done to preserve these trees.”

The City currently intends to remove the trees in the spring of 2015.

Among those confused by the decision is Salem’s Brian Hines.  Hines weighed in recently, saying he didn’t understand why the city was proceeding with removal, “since a certified arborist has said they can be saved.”

The trees projected to be replacements will also be Upright European Hornbeams.