MENTOR, Ohio — On a nice September evening, residents of Mentor’s Palmerston Drive are out riding bikes, taking their dogs on a walk and just enjoying the weather, but take a closer look and there is a prickly problem lurking throughout the development: Sweetgum tree balls.
“When they’ve all fallen, they’re all over. It’s hard to walk. It’s hard to ride a bike. They get in the streets. They get in the sewers. They’re just everywhere,” said resident Wendy Hudik. “The end of September through the winter months there will be thousands.”
The Sweetgum trees line the neighborhood and surrounding streets. The developer planted them more than 30 years ago.
“They’re beautiful trees. I’m not going to say anything about them, but unfortunately, they drop these dang things that are just a nuisance,” said resident Sharon D’Amico.
About 10 years ago, when the trees fully matured, their droppings got much worse.
“They’re all over the ground, they’re all over the sidewalk, they’re all over the tree lawns and also just everywhere. It’s really hard to pick them up,” said D’Amico.
The droppings are about the size of golf balls with prickly ends. The tree's roots are also lifting up some sidewalks, creating costly problems for neighbors to replace.
“It’s becoming dangerous. We have had several incidents occur where people have fallen, gotten hurt, broken arms and ankles,” said Hudik.
Hudik said they spend hours on end cleaning up the droppings, but they just can’t keep up.
“I hate cutting trees down but when you do it day-in and day-out and on the weekends, my husband and I own a business and Sundays are his days off and he spends the whole day cleaning it up,” she said.
The problem is that the city has to give out permits for the residents to cut the trees down. Hudik has made it her mission to get Mentor City Council to pass ordinances naming the trees as undesirable and mandating the city give out permits to residents to allow them to cut down the trees and replace them with another tree species.
Mentor City Council discussed those two ordinances and neighbors plead their case.
Council did pass the ordinance naming the trees undesirable, meaning they won’t be planted within the city anymore; however, cutting the trees down was met with some apprehension.
“I’ve tried my best to understand why people would want to cut down a Sweetgum tree that is so beautiful,” said Council member Sean Blake. “The second piece I’m going to be voting no on because I hate to see these trees destroyed.”
Members of the city’s tree commission were also in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting.
“These trees are really valuable and to say you’re going to replace it with a new tree, it is just not the same,” said Dick Douglas to council.
Ultimately, leaders decided to have a second reading of the permit ordinance at the next council meeting, where they will either vote on it or could push it to a third reading in the future. The meeting is Sept. 20.
Hudik said she and other neighbors will be in attendance.