Sidewalk Projects Raise Tree and Money Questions

More than 100 old trees in the center of Bishop either have or will come down to make way for sidewalks. Opinions vary around town. Mary Baker protested the removal of a big old tree in her neighborhood. City officials say they have received no other comments against the tree cutting. The price tag of the current project – $1.6 million.

The bureaucratic process allows for public comment if citizens happen to hear about the meetings or read a legal notice. Bishop Public Works Director Dave Grah revealed the numbers of trees cut down or planned for destruction. He said that 28 trees came down on Home Street, 23 on Second Street, 9 on Grove and upcoming – 26 in the vicinity of Pine and Elm, and 13 are proposed for cutting on West Pine and Sneden.

Has there been a public outcry for sidewalks? No. Grah said that city planning should include sidewalks. He said some disabled people have supported more sidewalks, and the funding comes from the Safe Routes to Schools program supported by Bishop school officials.

Grah admitted that the City did not analyze the atmospheric effects of the loss of 100 trees in a confined area. An arborist did not examine the 100 trees. Grah did point to a tree replacement program of three new trees to every one taken. Of course, the small trees will only reach old growth status in 50 to 100 years.

Some locals have complained about spending money on sidewalks in hard economic times. The money for the Safe Route to Schools projects comes from gas tax money through Caltrans. The Grove St. project alone cost around $1.6 million.

Grah said the Bishop Tree Committee has looked at a list of permitted trees in city rights of way and they want to expand the list. City Councilman Jeff Griffiths started the committee and with a degree in forestry, sees the sidewalk projects as a way to replace troubled trees with stronger species. We will talk to him more about that next week.

There is a chance to comment on the next sidewalk project at Monday’s City Council meeting. A public hearing will take place on the environmental document for West Pine and Sneden sidewalk projects. This work involves the destruction of 13 more trees.

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