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The Springfield Art Museum and the city’s Public Works Department are looking into removing 15 trees from the museum’s property. The city says the trees are plagued with disease and need to go. Despite the poor health of the trees, some neighbors are upset about their potential removal. KSMU’s Rebekah Clark has more.
Sixty-two trees make up the museum’s “urban forest” that surrounds the building on the edge of Phelps Grove Park. According to a release from the City of Springfield, 11 of those trees are in serious health decline and in danger of falling, causing potential safety hazards for surrounding neighbors. Four other trees are growing in underbrush, which directly conflicts with other planted trees. The city has marked the diseased trees with red ribbons to distinguish them from the healthy ones.
Nick Nelson is the art director of the museum. He says the removal of the unsightly trees is part of the museum's improvement plan.
“We’d had an evaluation of sixty-two trees on our property and a number were recommended for removal. Our primary concern is making sure that our environment is well-maintained and safe. We have 45,000 visitors a year that come to the museum, and we just want to make sure that their experience is the safest it can be.”
Some of those 62 trees, he says, will be pruned and brought back into a state of good health. He says that he doesn’t want to remove any trees, but the ones that are diseased are unsafe, and they need to be removed. He says the plan is to replant new trees in place of the old ones and fully get the grounds up-to-date with the renovations.
Last week, the Public Works Department led a walking tour around the grounds of the museum for anyone interested in learning about the health of the trees on the property. The tour came in response to a complaint filed by museum neighbors Kenny and Marti Knauer, who were worried about the removal of the trees. Marti says she's lived in the neighborhood her whole life, and is hesitant to see part of its history removed.
“The Art Museum is my side yard; I’ve lived here for thirty-one years. The remainder of my fifty-nine years, I lived within two blocks of the park here. I grew up in this neighborhood. I grew up under these trees, playing in the park program and rolling down the hill and sliding down it in the snow at the art museum.”
She says these trees date all the way back to the Civil War, when troops would march through the area. According to the Knauers, some of the trees were used by soldiers as shelter and shade, instead of being cut down and destroyed. Marti says in that historic respect, these trees offer a lot to the community.
However, she says she’s reasonable, and understands why some of them must go. Marti explains that she was the one who called the City, just to learn more about each of the condemned trees.
“When I went with them, they did actually convince me on twelve of the fifteen trees…they convinced me that they are in such a state of decline that it was inevitable that they come down. Now, they did not convince me on three of the trees.”
Plans for the removal of the trees have been presented to the Art Museum Board and the Phelps Grove Neighborhood Association. Nelson says the City plans to move forward immediately with the removal of the 15 trees due to immediate safety concerns.
KSMU tried to reach the certified arborist working on the project, Casey Kellner, but we were unable to reach her for an interview.
For KSMU News, I’m Rebekah Clark.