Residents pack town council meeting, bring feedback on Newburgh tree canopy removal

Residents pack town council meeting, bring feedback on Newburgh tree canopy removal
The beautiful tree canopy that greets people as they enter Historic Downtown Newburgh is supposed to be cut down..but not before another round of public talks. (WFIE)

NEWBURGH, IN (WFIE) - We have new information about the on again, off again tree canopy removal project in Newburgh.

The popular trees along the western entrance to historic, downtown Newburgh were supposed to be cut down a few weeks ago, but the chainsaws aren't being gassed up just yet.

At first, city officials told us the project was stopped due to rain, then they postponed the project indefinitely.

They said the delay is intended to allow for additional public comments on ideas for beautifying the area.

It was a packed house for the Newburgh Town Council meeting to discuss the on again, off again tree canopy removal project.

For many, the canopy isn't just a line of old trees. Many say it's a symbol of that familiar feeling we all know and love, and that's home.

"It's just kind of the moment of prayer. When we leave from work for the day, and we need that line between work and home, and I think for a lot of us, maybe we don't have that kind of moment in the day," said resident Judy Griffin.

The locals call it the front door to the town, and it's been around for decades.

Many asked the council to consider funding an alternative, safer fix without taking all of the trees down.

"Like most Newburgh residents, I'm hopeful we can find a way to save part of the town's western tree canopy," said Allyson Claybourn, a resident and upcoming candidate for Town Council. "According to town officials, Vectren trimmers topped and damaged many of the trees near power lines, causing some of the trees to pose a safety hazard. Even if some or all of the trees must come down, I believe the town should encourage Vectren to fund a safe and reasonable replacement – either appropriate trees, attractive landscaping, or some other alternative. The tree canopy has been an iconic entrance to Newburgh for decades and the town council needs to ensure this gateway into town remains beautiful and welcoming," said Claybourn.

Town council members introduced residents to professional Arborist Larry Caplan. He spent time surveying the trees individually the past few weeks and found out parts of the canopy is salvageable, marking the trees that are dead and need to come down in red, and in green for those that need repair.

"There are branches that do extend over the road on both sides. They are very low," Caplan said. "As we were standing out there Friday, I thought a shotgun had gone off behind me. Turns out, there was a truck that had crashed into one of the low branches. It was swinging there for the rest of our visit."

The trees were "topped" by Vectren in 2017 because they were growing into transmission lines.

Caplan told town officials the trees might last another two to three years, on top of that, they were told the tree branches are in danger of falling on the road.

Town Council Attorney Chris Welcher says the next step is contracting a tree service to review the arborist's report. They'll then get a quote and will have to consider the costs of moving forward.

Welcher says it has to be done quickly because of the danger.

We'll keep you updated on air and online.

Copyright 2018 WFIE. All rights reserved.