Richard Morantz has long been frustrated by how quickly a piece of history can be removed with a chainsaw.
"You can have a tree that has been growing for a 100 or a 150 years cut down in a minute or two," said Morantz, a rural Douglas County resident.
In Lawrence, he wants to make such an act a little more difficult. Morantz is organizing an effort to convince city leaders to adopt a new tree protection ordinance that would require a permit for a tree to be cut down on public property or rights-of-way.
Morantz said he has noticed too many tree stumps in city parks and along the rights-of-way of city streets. He said he's concerned the city or others are cutting down trees that might be able to be saved with a little tender loving care.
"I just don't want us to lose a tremendous resource," Morantz said. "Lawrence is amazing because we have so many large trees here. You go up on campus and look out over the city and it is glorious."
Morantz, who is hosting a public meeting at 7 p.m. Nov. 15 at the Lawrence Public Library, said a new ordinance should include some sort of public notification process before a tree is cut down on public property. He said an ordinance also should require a city forester to inspect each tree before it is removed. City commissioners also should appoint an urban tree advisory board, Morantz said, that could hear appeals and advise city officials on tree removal.
Fred DeVictor, the city's director of Parks and Recreation, said he was confident that the city was not haphazardly removing trees.
"We are the last people who want to take a tree out," DeVictor said.
He said the city does have a forestry specialist who inspects trees before his department cuts them down. He said trees occasionally are removed from city parks or from along city streets because they are diseased or have been damaged by storms.
DeVictor said the city does generally notify adjacent property owners of plans to remove a tree from along a street right-of-way, which typically is the area between the street and the sidewalk.
The city plants approximately 600 trees a year in street rights-of way as part of its commitment to being a Tree City USA.
Morantz doesn't deny the city does a good job of planting trees, but he said it needs to pay more attention to maintenance of larger trees.
Morantz isn't alone in his efforts. Lawrence resident Clark Coan is helping to organize the meeting. He said he believed there should be discussion of requiring a permit for developers and others to clear large lots of trees to make way for development.
"That is a concern, " Coan said. "Some of the trees they take down are mature walnuts and oaks. There are ways to preserve some of those and still allow the development. It could make the property more valuable if they did it right."
Morantz said he was trying to avoid expanding the ordinance to cover private property.
"I really don't want to venture into private property issues," Morantz said. "But I think the city can set a good example because I would welcome developers to try to plan their developments around existing trees."