Inquirer: If it's safety vs. birds, the birds lose

mowen@ledger-enquirer.comApril 27, 2014 

A Concerned Mother-in-law wrote to report some possibly sketchy activity at Lakebottom Park regarding trees and birds and such.

Actually, she forwarded me an email that was sent out to members of the local Audubon Society, the protectors of winged creatures.

The email included a note that an Audubon Society member had written to city arborist Scott Jones expressing concern over the number of dead or dying trees that are being felled in city parks, particularly Lakebottom.

"I had noticed this several months ago at Flat Rock Park and was very distressed today to see the large number of trees being removed in Weracoba Park," the letter said. "As you may know, there are many cavity nesting birds which require these trees for breeding. These include such species as the Barred Owl, Eastern Screech Owl, Brown-headed Nuthatch (hey now, let's not bring the school board into this) and Red-headed Woodpecker, the latter two species being species of concern which are on the National Audubon Watch List due to their decreasing numbers. …

"While I realize situations exist where dying trees need to be removed such as those located near parking areas, I have always appreciated the fact that (in the past) our city arborist demonstrated the expertise to selectively remove certain trees while preserving others for these cavity nesting birds."

I went over to Lakebottom and scoured the park for dead trees and proved once again that this job is indeed a walk in the park some days. I can report that there are more than a few dead trees, especially in the southeastern quadrant.

I counted five or six without covering the entire section of the park. A few had recently dropped sizeable portions of their trunks onto the ground. I didn't see any birds nesting or pecking, but I did see evidence of their presence. (I suspect if there were a woodpecker wing of the W.C. Bradley Co., these trees would have gone condo by now.)

I couldn't get in touch with Jones, but I did get in touch with his boss, Public Works Director Pat Biegler, whose department includes Urban Forestry and Beautification. Biegler said the city has a policy that determines which trees come down and which don't.

"Basically, if they're in an area where they pose any hazard to the public, we're going to take them down," Biegler said. "If they're in a more wooded area, away from walking paths, we'll leave some of them up."

If the choice is protecting kids or protecting birds, it's probably smart to err on the side of the ones whose parents can hire a lawyer.

Update

I am glad to report that the dilapidated educational plaques on the riverbank near the Synovus building are being tended to. Either that or someone stole the plaque parts off the stands, as one of our mayoral candidates might suggest.

Just kidding -- they were taken away by the city because they were a bit of a distraction. But they should be back soon, said Parks and Recreation Director James Worsley. His department is in the process of getting estimates to replace them and will restore them to their former informational glory as soon as possible.

-- Seen something that needs attention? Contact me at mowen@ledger-enquirer.com or 706-571-8570.

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