Spruces stay, Honey Locusts go, Poplar Street tabled

City of Blackfoot Parks and Recreation Department Head Scott Hays gave reports on spruce and honey locust tree removals at the City Council meeting Tuesday evening.
Catie Clark

On Tuesday, March 6, The Blackfoot City Council voted to keep two spruce trees on Bergenter Blvd. and remove several honey locust trees on Bridge Street downtown. They also tabled the issue of vacating Poplar Street.

Poplar Street

The meeting opened with the immediate tabling of the hospital's request to vacate Poplar Street. Mayor March Carroll made the recommendation to do so, citing the need for the City to do some additional research on the matter.

State 4A Softball Tournament

Mike Torgerson, one of the organizers of the state softball tournament, requested that a portion of E. Walker Street be closed during the event. The 4A championships will involve eight teams and will take place on May 18-19. The last time Blackfoot hosted the tournament was in 2004. Walker was closed then and Torgerson reported that "it worked great - we had no problems at all."
The proposals is to block off the street by the high school, between Mount Putnam and York Drives, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on both days of the event. He estimated the championships would draw crowds of 2500 or more.
The City Council approved the request.

Veterans Memorial Statue

U.S. Army veteran and former Blackfoot mayor Paul Loomis made an appeal to the City for a donation to the project to erect a memorial statue for veterans at Patriot Field. The statue has already been commissioned and the donation drive to complete the project has approximately $41,000 to go. Loomis said that they would like to finish raising funds in time to install the statue on the Fourth of July.
The City Council approved a donation of $5,000. More information on the statue project at Patriot Field is available at patriotfieldmemorial.com.

Bridge Street Honey Locust Trees

Parks and Recreation Department head Scott Hays presented a report on honey locust trees on Bridge Street. The three trees on the north side of the street between Broadway and Ash are damaging the sidewalk, creating a tripping hazard, and obstructing the facade and flagpole of the Idaho Republican Building, one of Blackfoot's oldest and most historic downtown edifices. Hays also added that the trees came up last summer and were trimmed at that time to avoid damage to adjacent buildings.
"I'm not in favor of removing trees," Carroll said, "but these are damaging the sidewalks."
Hays also reported that there are a total of eight honey locusts on Bridge. The ones on the corners of Bridge and Hwy. 91 are also hurting the pedestrian walkways.
"We walked the sidewalk this week," Hays said. "There are definitely some lift-ups there (at Brdige and Hwy. 91)."
The City Council heard public comments on the removal of the trees. The three who testified were in favor of removal since the alternative would be fixing the sidewalks every two to three years.
During the Council's deliberations, Councilman Christopher Jensen pointed out that: "This is the third or fourth time we've discussed these trees. I recommend that we remove any of the honey locust trees that are going to create a problem and replace them with something that will not get as large, at the discretion of the Parks and Recreation Department."
The City Council approved the removal and replacement of the trees between Ash and Broadway and any other honey locusts on Bridge causing problems with buildings and sidewalks.

Bergenter Spruce Trees

In December, Anderson Realty of Denver requested the removal of two large spruce trees along Bergener Blvd, citing insurance concerns. Anderson owns the building next to the trees. The issue was tabled at the January City Council meeting so the City could research the condition of the trees.
At the February meeting, Hays reported that the City Forester had given the trees a good bill of health and estimated they were halfway through their lifespan. He also said that neither tree was leaning dangerously. The trees were 26 feet from the adjacent commercial building and separated from it by a wall.
The Elks planted the spruces several decades ago as part of a city beautification project. The city decorates these spruces every year during the winter holidays.
The City Council voted to table the removal request in February to seek clarification from the business owner on the insurance issue and to ask for input on possible compromises on removal.
Mayor Carroll contacted Anderson and reported that: "The building owner was concerned over the trees blowing over and also about the fire hazard from the Christmas lights." The Mayor added: "It would take a hurricane to blow the trees over. As for the bulbs being a heat source, we've replaced all the bulbs with LEDs and that's not going to happen."
The Council heard public comments on the proposed removal of the trees. Alan Monson of Blackfoot remarked: "We have to have a decent approach to the City. I'm tired of competing with industry and commerce just to have a little nature around." The two other commenters were not in favor of removal. Several members of the 42 person audience added extemporaneous expressions of support for keeping the trees during the discussion.
"He hasn't provided a denial of service, just a recommendation from his insurance," said Councilwoman Jan Simpson, referring to the insurance recommendation that Anderson cited in the letter he sent the City in December. "If this issue is that important to him, he can come and talk to us himself or send a representative. We are spending way too much time on this. I recommend that we leave the trees in place."
Councilman Bart Brown commented that: "The burden is on him to provide proof that he can't get insurance. If he can't get insurance, then we have to do something about that"
"Nothing stops us from coming back to his if the owner can provide us with denial of insurance," added Jensen.
The Council voted not to remove the spruce trees.