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Flowering trees fall, complaints erupt in Langley

A Krieg Construction worker crosses First Street where flowering plum trees were removed Wednesday. At left is the entry to the Inn at Langley.  - Jim Larsen / The Record
A Krieg Construction worker crosses First Street where flowering plum trees were removed Wednesday. At left is the entry to the Inn at Langley.
— image credit: Jim Larsen / The Record

Removal of flowering trees as part of Langley’s First Street waterline project prompted an explanation and apology from Mayor Fred McCarthy.

Krieg Construction of Oak Harbor cut down trees on the west side of First Street, across from the Inn at Langley, Wednesday to continue its work of replacing the old water line.

Some people were upset to see the stumps surrounded by downed limbs sprouting a plethora of spring blossoms. The flowering plum tree stumps were quickly removed by Krieg.

Kitty Walker, clerk at the nearby In the County women’s clothing store, said she heard one complaint. “One customer was quite concerned about it,” she said. The fallen blossoms lying sadly on the sidewalk seemed to be the main concern. “Why couldn’t they wait until it wasn’t blooming,” Walker said, quoting her customer.

Mayor McCarthy said he received email inquires about the issue. In an emailed explanation he wrote, “Many of our citizens believe trees are sacred and therefore to be treated with the utmost reverence and respect … Some people felt personally violated.”

However, McCarthy noted the city owns the right-of-way to facilitate the installation of utilities. In this case, he said an arborist recommended removal of two trees because they were lifting the sidewalk.

“The trees presented a liability to the city and it was appropriate to remove them at this time to complete the waterline,” he said.

Susie Butters, daughter of John and Lisa Butters who own the home at 409 First St. where the trees were cut, drove down from Greenbank after receiving a call from her parents who were on a trip in California.

“Dad was really upset,” Susie Butters said. “We got no notice, no chance to say anything.” She went to City Hall but nobody was there; when she arrived at the house the trees were already cut.

“They were in full bloom, big piles in the street of those beautiful trees,” she said.

The city notified many First Street business owners of the upcoming waterline project, but, McCarthy said, “In this instance, we didn’t do as well in communicating to all adjacent property owners ahead of time.” In the future all property owners affected by such work will be notified ahead of time, he said.

One business owner not notified was Paul Schell, the influential owner of The Inn at Langley and other buildings in town.

Patrons of the posh inn walked out to the street Wednesday afternoon to see a pile of blossoms covering the road and sidewalk across the way.

“I was very disappointed and couldn’t understand their reasoning,” Schell said. “Why wait until the trees are blooming in the most beautiful way, in the midst of their glory?”

Schell didn’t hold Mayor McCarthy responsible, saying the new mayor also seemed unaware that the trees were coming down.

McCarthy finished his comments with a simple apology.

“Our sincere apologies are extended to the citizens who were offended by the actions taken in this instance,” said the mayor.

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