The felling of a landmark stand of historic trees in Cork Cty has prompted calls for a tree strategy that would explain to the public why some trees have to be cut down.
Cork City Council has defended the removal of 24 lime trees along Centre Park Road in the city’s south docklands after it said a report confirmed all were dead. It is not known what caused the trees to die.
A council spokesman said the trees, which are estimated to be about 75-years-old, had to be removed on health and safety grounds to protect public safety.
The trees on the road which leads to Páirc Uí Chaoimh's date from the time the Ford Motor Company established a factory on Centre Park Road.
But they have been battered by severe winter storms in recent years.
Almost 30 trees on the road were knocked by during Storm Ophelia in October 2017. Photographs of the shattered trees lying one after the other across the road became one of the most iconic images in Cork of the devastation wrought by that storm.
#corkcc Storm Ophelia was first to hit this line of lime trees & now 18 dead lime trees on Centre Park Road are to be removed for public safety - will be no replacement until future Docklands plans are known; much to discuss on tree planting at upcoming Council estimates meetings pic.twitter.com/BWuHJMvT8J— Kieran McCarthy (@cllrkmac) September 4, 2020
Such was the scale of the damage, it took clean-up crews almost three days to remove the fallen trees and reopen the road to traffic and pedestrians.
Many of the trees which survived that storm were knocked just a few months later when Storm Ali hit in September 2018.
The city council said it commissioned an independent arborist to survey the remaining trees and that expert confirmed all the trees were dead.
This prompted concerns about the stability of their root structures and their ability to withstand severe weather this winter, and the decision was made to remove all the trees.
Tree surgeons have been on site this week.
There are no plans to re-plant along the road which has been earmarked for upgrades as part of the city’s south docks regeneration.
Eoin Lettice, a plant scientist at the School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Science (BEES) and the Environmental Research Institute (ERI) at University College Cork, said trees, especially in an urban environment, need to be managed, and that sometimes that management means felling.
But he said if the city had a ‘tree strategy’, which included an open process to explain and justify in public why some trees have to be cut down, it could help ease public disquiet and concerns about such felling activity.
“If a building is to be knocked, there is a planning process, reports, and a discussion around that," he said.
"But there is no apparent similar process for the cutting down a tree that might be 200-years-old, and extremely important from a social, heritage or biological point of view.
“A lot of the ongoing arguments about whether such trees should be felled could be solved if we had a strategy, which included a clear process explaining why some trees have to be cut down.”