Donors want to remove five trees from Ashland Plaza and replace them with four larger trees and move one of the removed trees to one of the spots on the Plaza where another was removed.

Greg Trunnell, a former city Tree Commission member, is spearheading the “Ashland Plaza Tree Enhancement Project” (APTEP) effort and has lined up donors to pay for the effort and Solid Ground Landscaping to donate the trees.It’s primary mission is to replace four smaller trees currently on the plaza for four larger trees already in adult growth.

According to the Plaza redesign plan undertaken in 2013, three of the five existing trees were removed and seven added for a total of nine trees. One, a red sunset maple, died for unknown reasons in 2014 and was replaced.

“It is understood that the trees selected by Covey Pardee Landscape Architects will one day grow to be large stature trees," the APTEP writes in a report to the city, "however there is immediate value provided by repurposing the existing trees with larger stature trees.” The report also says it will take between seven and 15 years for the trees currently on the plaza to grow as large as the trees they’d like to plant now.

Two zelkova’s, one Hungarian oak and one parrotia currently on the Plaza would be taken out and donated to the city Parks Department and Southern Oregon University. A third zelkova would be moved to where a smaller speciman was taken out. The group proposes replacing the current trees with two 30- to 40-foot willow oaks and replacing the two smaller zelkova’s with 30-foot-tall versions.

“The trees were selected out of hundreds of specimens and are top specimen trees for long term health and aesthetics.” according to the report which further discusses the trees as being sturdy. “Being locally grown, the trees are already ecologically acclimated to this bio-region.”

The enhancement project began through a grassroots effort of asking citizens what they wanted to see. Trunnell said they spoke with hundreds of people from all walks of life, including tourists who gave their direct approval. “They are strongly in favor of improving the look and feel of our Plaza, including the planting of larger, more mature trees on the Plaza.”

Trunnell also spoke with the city’s engineering and administrative offices to get their approval and willingness to oversee the project should the council approve it.

Ashland resident David Campanelli says he supports the idea of replanting larger trees back on the Plaza. He said he doesn’t understand why the city decided to take the other trees down (an arborist said severe root girdling was likely to lead to the decline of the trees, and liquid ambers are not recommended street trees), but he’d like to see larger ones there now. “I think it’d be great. It’s looking very bare. I never like taking trees down.”

The City Council agreed at its Feb. 21 meeting to put consideration of the planting, at the group's expense, on a future agenda, along with a review of reasons why larger trees were not planted in the first place and potential legalities and precedent-setting issues around acceptance of such donations.

The council plans to discuss the project in their March 6 study session which will be held in the Siskiyou Room of the Ashland Community Development Building at 51 Winburn Way. Study sessions are regularly scheduled to begin at 5:30 pm.

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