PHOTOS: City’s Tree Cutting Intensifies Along Ambaum Blvd. SW

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Story & Photos by Scott Schaefer

We first reported on Nov. 18th that, as part of the City of Burien’s 2010/2011 Overlay Asphalt project, 96 trees along Ambaum Blvd. SW were going to be cut down in order to allow for new, ADA-compliant sidewalks to be put in sometime next year.

“These trees (‘London Planes’) were planted 20-30 years ago before much was known about what kind of trees might work well around sidewalks and pavement,” said Jenn Ramirez Robson, city management analyst. “The roots from these trees grow close to the surface and wreak all sorts of havoc. In the case of Ambaum, the roots have not only buckled sidewalks but they have also pushed out curbs and have begun to grow up and out from the street itself.”

Robson adds:

Because the roots are causing damage in so many directions cutting the problem roots would not leave enough stability for the tree. It should also be noted that the trees are too old and established to be transferred to another location. The trees will be removed sometime before the end of the year. They will be replaced with one of the following in the spring:

  • Pyrus calleryana ‘Glen’s Form’/ Chanticleer Pear
  • Tilia cordata ‘Corzam’/ Corinthian Linden
  • Carpinus betulus ‘Fastigiata’/ Pyramidal European Hornbeam

Friday morning (Dec. 3rd), workers could be seen along Ambaum near SW 136th clearing cut trees and branches, with chippers munching away at the remains of these grand old plants:

As of Friday morning, Dec. 3rd, this stretch of Ambaum just south of SW 136th suddenly looked much more exposed.

Workers insert tree limbs and branches into chippers on Ambaum Blvd. SW the morning of Dec. 3rd.

This photo, taken Nov. 18th, shows a line of trees marked "X" – meaning they're all doomed to be cut down.

We here at The B-Town Blog believe that the city should have let its citizens know that these 96 trees were going to be destroyed for this project.

We don’t believe that was the case.

Our unscientific poll from some 155 Readers shows that at least 59% share our sentiment that they’re sad to see these trees cut:

How do you feel about the city removing 96 trees along Ambaum Blvd. SW?

  • WTF? DON’T REMOVE these great old trees! I love ’em! (59%, 91 Votes)
  • I AGREE! This street (and sidewalks) needs a major face-lift! (34%, 53 Votes)
  • I don’t care about trees or nature or beauty in Burien. (7%, 11 Votes)

For more information about road construction in Burien, or to share your opinion directly with the city, you can call (206) 436-5551.

Also, if you haven’t yet taken our poll, please vote or share your opinion below with a Comment:

How do you feel about the city removing 96 trees along Ambaum Blvd. SW?

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12 Responses to “PHOTOS: City’s Tree Cutting Intensifies Along Ambaum Blvd. SW”
  1. Stephen Lamphear says:

    Weren’t these trees actually planted with “Forward Thrust” bond funds back in the ’70s (similar situation along SW 152nd)??

    Yes, they are the wrong trees; and yes, the public should have had advance notice of the logging event.

    Also, the trees in the city’s proposed replacement have NONE of the grandeur we’ve had along Ambaum for so long. The pear is dismissed by many landscapers as just too common — and it will always be small. The Linden’s are good looking and similar trees can be seen along northern portions of 35th SW in Seattle — they also are small scale. The columnar hornbeam is just wrong — a line of pencils along the street.

    The city should replace the Plane Trees with similarly majestic trees — and there are good choices in oak, ash, maple.

    Let’s not lose the majesty of a tree lined boulevard!!!

  2. Cyndi Upthegrove says:

    It would be beautiful to replant with sugar maples. Has anyone ever seen Coulon Park in Renton in the fall? The avenue is lined on both sides with sugar maples and it is spectacular. Please, Jen – don’t just go for the cheapest tree.

  3. Rainycity says:

    Fruit trees would be kind of cool if they can`t find in themselves to plant big old shade
    trees like in the town of mayberry,,*lol*
    On a more serious note though, What about the wood? Anybody know what they plan on doing with that wood from what was it 96 trees? I`m always on the look-out for firewood.

  4. Ryan says:

    since it will take a good 20 to 30 years no matter what they plant, maybe we should ask the kids in Kindergarten what they would like to see along Ambaum, most of the rest of us will never again see grand old trees lining this street. Thanks City of Burien, thanks for not considering what the community might like…

  5. Eric says:

    From First Ave to Ambuam, Burien has been logged off. I guess asphalt is better looking than grand old trees. Or is it?

    “Don’t it always seem to go
    That you don’t know what you got till it’s gone
    They paved paradise and put up a parking lot”

  6. Shari says:

    When Scott first reported this plan, some discussion started on the blog about whether this wood might be used for some kind of public art or to enhance in some way a public space or spaces in Burien. I asked Jenn Ramirez Robson. She was quick to respond and looked into the possibility. Here’s what she found out (she gave me permission to share her response). So maybe if this has to happen again in the future with other trees somewhere else (which we probably all hope isn’t necessary), there might be an alternative to chipping, etc.

    from Jenn:
    Those are great ideas but it doesn’t look like we will be going that direction this time. I will certainly keep them in mind should something similar come up on another project.

    I do know that the wood will be chipped and recycled and not put in a landfill. I have heard that the subcontractor, Thundering Oak will also offer the wood to their employees and I think they are letting local residents take some of the wood as well. Free wood may not be a bad thing this time of year.

    I do appreciate the suggestions and I hope I can use your ideas sometime in the future.

    Best regards,
    Jenn Ramirez Robson

  7. Greg Butler says:

    I hope Jenn Ramirez Robson realizes all that fabulous firewood will need to dry for about a year before one can burn it.

    As to replacement trees for Burien’s dwindling urban forest, Pears, Lindens, Sugar Maples, and Hornbeams are all beautiful trees.

    There really aren’t any inherently ugly trees, are there? Although some trees do make better street trees than others. Fruit trees, for example, tend to be a bit messy for an urban situation.

    The real issue here is that we simply don’t want to make room underground in an urban setting for the root system required by large street trees. Unless special efforts are made to guarantee the survival of the root system PRIOR to planting, the trees will eventually inevitably succumb to poor soil conditions and/or conflicts with infrastructure.

    Roots require adequate amounts of air and water. Too little water during the tree’s establishment period results in stunted growth at best and quick mortality at worst. Inadequate drainage due to compacted soils or poorly designed and constructed planting pits causes roots to suffocate and the trees suffer a slow decline. Tree roots also greatly resent being damaged or severed during infrastructure repairs and upgrades.

    For the past several decades the Dutch have been studying the impact of poor soil conditions and conflicts with infrastructure on street trees. Two rather detailed studies are linked here:

    For those who prefer a little less jargon with their streetscape, the City of Markham, Ontario has put together an excellent booklet on the benefits and challenges that come with planting street trees. See pages 25 and 26 for specific suggestions in terms of providing adequate root run for large trees in urban environments.

    So regardless of which species is ultimately chosen, it is vitally important that site conditions are provided which are conducive to future root growth, and that we make every effort to ensure that the root system is not damaged in the future.

    Or we can tear it all up and do it over again in thirty years or so…

    The real challenge is that as a society we simply don’t understand the worth of street trees. Apart from their inherent beauty, these trees provide stormwater control, clean up air pollution, increase property values, and much, much more. Here’s an excellent booklet about the value street trees provide over their life span:

    Of course, measuring the value of a tree “over the course of its life span” assumes that tree is going to live.

    Like just about everything in life, we have the choice of doing the work right the first time or redoing the work later. Municipal budgets are beyond tight at the moment, and it costs more to properly prepare a planting pit than it does to just plop a tree into the ground and hope.

    But as my father likes to say, “Sometimes if you spend a little more, you only have to cry once.”

  8. Rob says:

    Personally I would like to see these trees replaced with fruit trees of some sort. The fruit could then be picked and donated to the local food banks.

    • Steve says:

      Do you really want apples and pears dropping onto passing by cars?

      Fruit trees in general a messy… and I for one do not want to eat fruit that’s being blasted with exhaust fumes and road dust daily.

  9. saintallie says:

    All the proposed replacement trees offer little shade. they do not have a large canopy. The whole point is to offer pedestrians relief from the sun during warm days. they are small compact cylinder trees. pretty but have little else to offer. There are better options that do not have root systems that ruin sidewalks or get too tall and damage power lines.

  10. Better ideas? says:

    Agrocybe aegerita or Pioppino mushrooms are edible, well suited to Seattle weather, and easily grown on chipped london plane wood. Just a thought, the next time the city wants to “dispose” of nearly 100 trees worth of biomass, maybe someone could recycle the wood into food bank support and high quality mulch for city planting efforts.

  11. Tom Jones says:

    I hear the wood from these trees is called “Lacewood”, because of the pattern of the grain, and that it is a good hardwood for making thing out of. It would be a stupid waste not to give away or sell most of it for this purpose. But then again, government tends to be stupid, so there it is.

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