Archive for Thursday, September 5, 2013

One of Lawrence’s oldest residents comes down

Ken Bowen, of Custom Tree Care, watches as workers cut down an estimated 80-foot-tall cottonwood tree in the lawn of the Kappa Sigma fraternity on Wednesday. The tree was forced to be removed after a contractor damaged the tree's primary root system while digging a drainage line.

Ken Bowen, of Custom Tree Care, watches as workers cut down an estimated 80-foot-tall cottonwood tree in the lawn of the Kappa Sigma fraternity on Wednesday. The tree was forced to be removed after a contractor damaged the tree's primary root system while digging a drainage line.

September 5, 2013


Lawrence lost one of its oldest trees this week, not all at once but piece by piece.

The buzzing sounds in the West Hills subdivision Wednesday weren't locusts but chainsaws taking down a roughly century-old cottonwood in front of the Kappa Sigma fraternity house on Emery Road.

Dave Steen, president of the Kappa Sigma Corporation Board, said a contractor doing work on the nearby Kappa Delta sorority had in June accidentally severed some of the tree's roots while digging for a drainage pipe. Local tree experts, including from the city of Lawrence, examined the cottonwood and couldn't rule out that it wouldn't one day fall over, whether by heavy winds or an ice storm, he said.

Kappa Sigma officials weren't willing to leave the frat house and cars and pedestrians on the street at risk. The contractor, Ottawa-based Loyd Builders, agreed to remove the cottonwood and replace it with new trees, Steen said. The project supervisor, Seth Martin, hadn't returned calls seeking comment as of Thursday afternoon.

Fraternity members and passersby could be overheard this week mourning the loss of the old hardwood tree, which residents say fit right into the forest-like neighborhood it had long been a part of. Topeka-based Custom Tree Care, which removed the cottonwood, judged by its rings that it was between 100 and 110 years old. It was an estimated 80 feet tall and 72 inches across at the base.

"It's awful that we have to lose the tree," said Patricia Harbaugh, house mother for Kappa Sigma, adding that she has estimates showing the tree to be worth $20,000 based on years of growth.

Robert Lewis, who lives in the neighborhood, was upset the tree was coming down but recognized there were no other options. "It was only a matter of time before the whole thing was going down," he said.

While Kappa Sigma officials are disappointed to see the tree go, they know they were left with no choice.

"If there had been any reasonable way to save it without tremendous liability of failing over on anyone, we'd try to save it," said Steen, who graduated from Kansas University in 1971, when the iconic tree was about half as tall. "It's a shame because it's kind of a nice, impressive sight: on a sloping hill, a big old tree up there. You just can't replace a 90-foot-tall cottonwood."


jhawk1998 4 years, 9 months ago

This town has no regard for saving our older trees. How does a contractor not know he is digging into a root system and damaging it? this summer all the mature trees on the north side of the library site were removed instead of being incorporated into the new design. Another was removed in the 800 block of Vermont. Lawrence speaks al lot about preservation but doesn't do very well in this area.

George_Braziller 4 years, 9 months ago

The giant American elm that once stood east of the Hobbs Taylor Lofts was lost not to Dutch elm disease as claimed. It died because of root compaction from all of the heavy equipment.. A token fence had been put up around it but it was too small and it should have been out at the drip line. I think it was intentional because there was such a public outcry when the developer of the Lofts announced he was going to cut it down he had to find a way to make it die so he had to.

Jay Keim 4 years, 9 months ago

Lawrence should loose it's "Tree City" designation. This is the second huge tree cut down in the matter of a couple months due to "accidental" damage. The other by the new arts warehouse district. They didn't even know if the "damage" would kill the tree, Most likely it wouldn't. They just cut them down with no regard or regrets. Is this the same construction company in both cases? Whoever the contractor was who damaged the tree should not be given anymore contracts in this city and should pay for the tree.

Jean Robart 4 years, 9 months ago

So you would rather the tree go out in a storm and/or kill or injure people or damage the cars or the building They did the right thing in cutting what was left of the tree down.

jhawk1998 4 years, 9 months ago

Trees actually protect surrounding structures from lightening strikes.

blindrabbit 4 years, 9 months ago

The worst case of negligent tree removal by The City and especially Parks and Recreation Department was the removal (about 10 years ago) of the very large female persimmon tree where the circular drive is now located at the North Lawrence Visitors Center. It was one of only two very large persimmons that I am aware of in Lawrence, the other being on the right side front lawn of Strong Hall on campus. Persimmons are very strong and handsome trees, and the North Lawrence one was especially productive of fruit. That tree was about 50 feet tall and about 18 inches in diameter. No possibility of moving, too large and persimmons are very difficult to transplant because of long tap root. Too bad P&R could not come up with a way of incorporating in the landscape design there, not very much foresight and probably a dose of bullheadedness thrown in..

gatekeeper 4 years, 9 months ago

I'm sure the fruit is why the brought it down. Everything they've planted out there takes no maintenance. They're too lazy to deal with a little falling fruit.

patkindle 4 years, 9 months ago

+1 for the tree huggers, but................. I didn't know a cottonwood was a hardwood and lived 100 yrs,

Paul Wilson 4 years, 9 months ago

"Hardwood" is simply a broad definition for any leaf-bearing tree. Needle bearing trees are "softwoods". Cottonwoods do have a life expectancy of 100+ years.

kernal 4 years, 9 months ago

There was a huge cottonwood tree on the grounds of the state's capitol that was about 120 years old. It survived a fire and the Topeka tornado. Unfortunately, that tornado caused damage, the tree became diseased and had to be cut down. Topeka did take a cutting from the old tree and planted it on the grounds. Too bad someone didn't have the foresight to do that with the tree in this story.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 9 months ago

Perhaps contractors need to be educated on trees. Ignorance and/or arrogance is risky business.

Patricia Harbaugh in the future it might be worth your while to ask contractors and their staff a few questions . Of course we shouldn't feel the need to do so. In essence we cannot assume people digging know all they need to know.

Perhaps city hall should be responsible and advise before issuing permits.

Nathan Atchison 4 years, 9 months ago

how about a fine for negligent digging when it comes to such cases?

patkindle 4 years, 9 months ago

the cotton wood grows quickly straight and tall, but it is the softest of the hardwords and about the only value is for pallets, Cottonwood trees do not live long,, becoming old at 75 years, and exceptionally old at age 125, still a nice tree and sad to lose, but most fall over or are blown over in 25 or 50 yrs

Matthew Herbert 4 years, 9 months ago

I'd love to know where the $20,000 number came from. It's a cottonwood- in the lumber/firewood world this might as well be virtually an 80 foot weed.

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