Reader question: The reconstruction of Atlantic Street this summer cut through the roots of a large evergreen tree, and it now has died. The city doesn't want to take any responsibility for the tree dying. I'm a bit outraged. What can be done?
Answer: The blue spruce that died is located on private property at the southwest corner of Atlantic and Lawe streets in Appleton. A resident at the property said the city's contractor on the street project severed the tree's roots, some as large as a foot in diameter.
The resident said the construction finished in late August or early September and that within a month, the tree was dead. The removal of the tree is complicated because of nearby power lines along Atlantic and Lawe.
Appleton City Forester Mike Michlig was aware of the issue when I called him. He disagreed with the resident's assessment that the street excavation killed the tree, noting it likely was in decline long before the street work.
"I don't think the street construction had anything to do with it, or not much to do with it," Michlig said. "A tree of that size would not be impacted by that construction because it was like 15 feet away from it. Cutting roots isn't necessarily good for a tree, but at that distance, it would not cause the tree to die in two weeks as he said it did."
"He's making a connection that seems logical to him," Michlig continued, "but treewise, it doesn't add up."
Watchdog Q&A: Duke Behnke answers your local government questions
Because the tree is on private property, the city isn't responsible for its removal or replacement. However, after my inquiry, Michlig contacted We Energies and requested that the utility prune the tree so the property owner can remove it without damaging the power lines. We Energies agreed.
Michlig also proposed that the city plant a tree that won't interfere with the power lines − maybe a Japanese tree lilac − in the Lawe Street terrace, which is a public right of way.
"That's something we can do, just to add to the urban forest," Michlig said. "It has nothing to do with the tree that died."
The offer appeased the resident. He thanked me for my role, believing the power of the press led to a swift, amicable resolution to the issue.
"You did good by giving him a call," he said.
Post-Crescent reporter Duke Behnke answers your questions about local government. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 920-993-7176.
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This article originally appeared on Appleton Post-Crescent: Appleton resident, city find common ground after death of spruce tree