In a letter to Mayor Frank Jackson on Tuesday, Ward 3 Councilman Kerry McCormack has asked city officials to immediately revoke the license and permit of a national tree trimming contractor, Asplundh Tree Expert LLC, which allegedly caused “irreversible” harm to otherwise healthy trees.
Councilman McCormack’s letter comes as have voiced numerous concerns about some of the extensive and drastic tree pruning operations in Tremont and Ohio City.
McCormack said Asplundh’s work has been of very low quality and has drastically changed the street trees in many neighborhoods he represents.
“In various cases, the work performed as so poor that the emergency removal of otherwise healthy trees was required,” McCormack stated in his Dec. 4 letter. “The trees, by law, were required to be removed by the City of Cleveland, which did not cause the damage to the trees, but was required to pay for their removal.”
On Tuesday morning, Asplundh crews were out in full force, trimming trees in public rights-of-way near power lines.
One area in particular, the 3200 block of Madison Avenue, had nearly a dozen trees drastically pruned. The tree limbs and branches were assembled in piles on the side of the road, blocking the sidewalks in some places.
“It’s ugly. It’s just ugly,” said longtime Ohio City resident Danny Roe. “It looks like half of a tornado came through here. Everything that should have been cut is still there and what they didn’t need to cut is gone.”
The trees that were pruned look more like goalposts on a football field as a deep “V” shape has been carved out of the canopy. “Directional pruning” is a common and recognized practice in arboriculture community and it is recommended by the USDA Forest Service.
A spokesman for First Energy said Asplundh crews were contracted by the utility to perform tree pruning work around its power lines. The spokesman acknowledged that the work isn’t aesthetically pleasing. However, the spokesman said directional pruning is an important part in keeping trees healthy and away from power lines.
Many neighbors said Asplundh crews simply went too far.
"Trees are the leading cause of power outages," the spokesman said.
"First Energy’s contractors are required to abide by nationally and internationally-adopted standards," the spokesman said.
Residents with concerns about particular trees are encouraged to contact First Energy.
“It’s ugly first of all. It also just brings a different feel to the neighborhood for sure,” said resident Kim Oswald. “It really just messes up the whole neighborhood because it’s everywhere. It’s not just Monroe Ave. They really just butchered everything. It affects the air quality, the water quality, even the animals that rely on those trees.”
The tree pruning controversy has also taken root in Tremont, where Asplundh’s tree pruning also drew the ire of residents. Earlier this week, the Cleveland City Council approved two new tree-related measures.
The first piece of legislation establishes new guidelines for tree preservation and protection, requiring companies pruning or removing trees in the public right of way to follow international arboriculture standards.
The second measure includes spending $900,000 in 2019 to hire an additional contractor to help city crews to remove dead trees. The money allocated will also go toward planting roughly 700 new trees.
Asplundh did not return requests for comment.