For more than 20 years, a half-mile stretch of 48th Avenue West in Mountlake Terrace has been adorned with 37 maple trees, providing shade in the summer and brilliant color in the fall. Now, city crews have begun the process of removing those trees, due to safety issues.
On Monday, work crews from the City of Mountlake Terrace Public Works Department began cutting down the trees that stand alongside the roadway of 48th Avenue West south of 236th Street. Once the trees are removed, crews will tear up any roadway and pedestrian walkway damaged by the roots of those trees, install 6-foot-by-6-foot planting pits, and prepare the pits for the planting of new trees this fall.
“Let’s call it a tree replacement project,” said Curt Brees, Mountlake Terrace Assistant City Manager and Public Works Director, “because we’re going to replace the trees that were placed there more than 20 years ago. Those trees weren’t a suitable selection for that location.”
The roots of many of the trees have buckled the blacktop pedestrian walkway, noted Brees, making the walkway difficult for users. The wide reach of the trees’ branches have also drawn the attention of King County Metro and Snohomish County PUD.
“Metro and PUD have called us often, asking that we trim the branches on those trees,” Brees said.
While the tree cutting began this week, the project is expected to take a couple years to complete. Only half of the trees will be removed this year, and space limitations make tree removal and placement of new planting pits intricate work. Those eight blocks of 44th Avenue West are used by Metro bus route 347, power lines run above the length of the roadway, and a 16-inch natural gas line is located beneath the street surface.
The city has not yet decided on the type of trees to be used in the replacement work. Trees to be selected will have to meet certain criteria, including reaching a maximum height of only 15 to 20 feet. In the fall, city officials will consult with urban tree guides produced by the University of Washington and the Seattle Department of Transportation, in addition to experts at local nurseries, then purchase a number of trees wholesale and plant them right away.
“Trees have the best survival rate when they are planted in the fall during their dormant season,” Brees said
City officials knew they may receive some criticism when chain saws were fired up and taken to the maple trees. “We realize it’s a sensitive issue, but rest assured that we will be replacing the trees that are removed,” Brees added.
— Story and photos by Doug Petrowski