Former Ashland Citizens Budget Committee member Keith Baldwin has paid $25,095 and written letters of apology after he hired a tree service to cut down a park tree and cut the top off another, apparently to improve views from his property.
In April, Baldwin hired a tree service to cut the trees in Ashland's Hald-Strawberry Park, according to Ashland Municipal Court documents.
The park is in southwest Ashland in the hills overlooking town. Baldwin's property is on Strawberry Lane and a house was under construction there at the time of the tree cutting.
In July, Baldwin pleaded guilty to removing a tree without a permit and was ordered to pay $25,000 in restitution plus $95 in court fees.
Baldwin paid the $25,095 on Aug. 22, court records show.
"I believe the $25,000 payment required of Mr. Baldwin by the Parks Commission stands as a deterrent, demonstrating that the commission takes very seriously damage to natural resources on city property," Parks Commissioner JoAnne Eggers said this week.
Baldwin did not return a phone call seeking comment on the case.
In a July letter to the Ashland Parks and Recreation Commission, he said he wanted to convey his sincere apology to the city of Ashland and its residents for having caused the cutting of two trees in Hald-Strawberry Park.
"I deeply regret my error in doing so and apologize to all those who have had to deal with the results of my mistake," he wrote.
Baldwin also wrote a letter of apology to Parks Director Don Robertson in May.
The pine trees that were cut were estimated by parks staff to be about 35 to 40 years old.
"Two majestic ponderosa pine trees were destroyed, one cut down and the other topped, apparently to improve Mr. Baldwin's view," Parks Commissioner Rick Landt said this week. "These trees belonged to the citizens of Ashland and unfortunately, are irreplaceable in our lifetime."
A neighbor spotted the trees being cut and alerted the parks department, which then called the Ashland Police Department.
The court documents do not state whether Baldwin cut the trees to improve his views, but some residents and city officials have speculated that was the motivation.
Baldwin was an Ashland Citizens Budget Committee member at the time of the tree-cutting incident but is no longer serving on the committee, which annually reviews and approves the city government's budget.
His term expired and he was not reappointed, Landt said.
Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or email@example.com.