Removing an 80-year-old tree is no easy feat, from excavating several tons of roots and branches to dealing with the opposition that is bound to come in Ashland.

Removing an 80-year-old tree is no easy feat, from excavating several tons of roots and branches to dealing with the opposition that is bound to come in Ashland.

When Holiana Sapinsley moved to Ashland five months ago and learned that the sycamore tree in her new front lawn was diseased and a potential hazard, she made the decision to remove the tree, never imagining the response it would garner.

After a six-week process to apply for a tree removal permit, which included notifying all her neighbors and seeking expert opinions from two arborists, crews finally started sawing last week. It took two days to remove the canopy, another two to remove the 12,000 pound stump and root system, and sidewalk repaving was slated to begin today.

Since the excavation began, two people placed "hateful" phone calls to Sapinsley, one stranger driving by stopped to yell at her, and another stopped to take photographs without explanation, Sapinsley said.

"It was a very sad thing for me," she said. "It's been extremely disturbing. First losing a grand old tree and then having people in my new town react the way they have."

A severe windstorm in June knocked several large limbs out of the tree and served as a warning to Sapinsley. She consulted two Rogue Valley arborists, who diagnosed the tree with Anthracnose, a disease they said made the tree vulnerable to even more breakage.

"If someone was walking under the tree or driving under it, it could have killed someone, so I knew it had to come out," she said. "I did this because I couldn't live with my conscience if I hadn't done the right thing and somebody had been injured or killed."

August Schilling, who owns The Village Arborist in Ashland, was one of the arborists who submitted a letter to the city recommending the tree be removed.

"There was very little way to effectively manage that tree," he said. "I am an absolute tree preservationist, I am a tree hugger through and through, but I also do understand that sometimes trees have to go."

In order to keep the tree, Sapinsley would have to spend thousands of dollars maintaining it, including trimming jobs at $800 apiece, he said. Instead, she will replace her one sycamore with two zelkova elm trees and repair the sidewalk that the root system was destroying.

A few neighbors also submitted letters of complaint to the city, including Gary Foll who lives down the street. Because the former residents had maintained the tree, Foll said he didn't realize it was a hazard, but after further investigation, he also agreed it was a wise decision to replace the tree.

"She's done a beautiful job and it's going to be an asset to the whole neighborhood when it's all done," he said. "She's been a good neighbor and it's been a long haul. It's too bad that she's gotten complaints, but in this town, why that's going to be normal."

Sapinsley chose to draw a positive message out of all the complaints she received.

"It's a lesson in that we all have a tendency to make assumptions and to judge other people's actions or situations when they don't know the full story," she said. "I love trees as much as anyone but when a tree is old and diseased and a hazard to people it's time for it to go."

Staff writer Julie French can be reached at 482-3456 ext. 227 or jfrench@dailytidings.com.