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Proactive community to save Norman’s trees

Olivier Rey / Red Dirt Report
A sign at the entry of Stash on May 3.
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NORMAN, Okla. – A large crowd responded to the call for saving Norman’s trees at a meeting on Wednesday at Stash. The meeting was organized by two Normanite tree lovers Rebecca Bean and Dr. Joe Carter who created a group after the recent cutting of trees by Oklahoma Electric Cooperative (OEC) along Berry Street.

Joe Carter and Rebecca Bean talking at the meeting on May 3.

Although it was at the request of the owners because oftentimes the trees were in contact or too close to power lines, Norman citizens such as Bean and Carter rapidly mobilized on social media by creating a dedicated Facebook page (with over 1,200 likes) to show their consternation and support as trees are considered by many to be an important part of Norman’s history and charm.

“Most of these trees have been planted during the 60s,” Carter said. “This is an organic movement.”

Aleisha Karjala and Bill Hickman talking at the meeting on May 3.

Besides the dozens of attendees, city councilmembers of Ward 2 and 4 Aleisha Karjala and Bill Hickman, Tree Board members, and OEC’s staff members were present to animate the discussion.

Two important propositions came out of the meeting; the first one is to push the City of Norman to hire a forester, a position that was cut by the city a few years ago. Hickman said in comparison, the city of Edmond has two foresters.

“It is a budget decision, it is not always easy to get position funded,” Hickman said.

“Today, if anyone calls the city (about a tree issue) there is no one in charge,” Karjala said.

Secondly, Karjala said the Tree Board will start working on a tree canopy ordinance to better protect the trees in Norman adapted to the need of each area. Hickman added there is already an ordinance that forces owners who want to build new construction to plant at least two trees on their property. Unfortunately, Hickman said it doesn’t apply to other events that can impact trees during their life.

“Hundreds of cities have an ordinance to protect their trees,” Carter said.

A tree on Buchanan Avenue, Norman.

However, attendees pointed out that it could be difficult to oblige owners on what to do with their trees on their property.

“We have to be careful about that,” Karjala said.

Both councilmembers insisted that not all great trees along Norman’s streets can be saved as some are cut because of disease or safety reasons to protect people walking on the sidewalk.

One alternative to continuing to have trees along the street is to plant medium trees that are not growing higher than a power line such as the Chinese Pistache and the Red Bay.

“And they are both very pretty,” Karjala said.

An OEC staff member said the power lines were built in 1946 on Berry Street before the trees were planted. She added all the cutting of trees are for safety reason and on the demand of the owners saying, “If a tree branch touches a power line, it could literally electrocute you and kill you.”

However, Stevi Craig, a Norman citizen said she was approached by an OEC staff member who proposed cutting her trees saying, “I thought he was trying to persuade me.”

Attendees present during the meeting on May 3.

The OEC staff also said it is at least two times more expensive to put the electric line underground than on a power line, which didn’t convince the auditorium.

“Save Norman’s trees” signs were distributed to stick where trees were being cut.

“I think this wonderful turn-out shows how many care about this topic,” Bean said. “I think democracy works only if people are involved.”

Photos by Red Dirt Report's Olivier Rey.

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Olivier Rey

Olivier has traveled in 20 countries on six continents before landing in Norman. Native French...

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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