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Timber!

Burke Centre felled trees cause unsightly view.

A few Burke Centre residents are concerned that their neighborhood is beginning to look like a deserted logging operation, with felled trees left to decay naturally once they are cut down.

The Burke Centre Conservancy removes as many branches as possible when it cuts down trees and uses a small brush chipper to turn small branches into chips. The main trunk, however, is left to decay and mix in with the forest floor vegetation that flourishes in the spring and summer.

"They leave them lie so it looks natural," said Guy Gauthreaux, an Oaks neighborhood resident who is unhappy with the felled pine tree situation in his community. "This is about as far from natural as you can get."

Gauthreaux and his wife, Debbie, began inquiring about the situation in February. They had some e-mail correspondence with Jack Liszka, the Conservancy’s facilities and resources administrator, who told them the policy was to leave the trunks due to the high costs associated with removing them. The Conservancy’s tree services budget in 2006 was $75,000, but it spent more than $100,000.

"It would cost a small fortune to take this stuff out," said Liszka.

The trees in the Gauthreauxs’ neighborhood either posed a risk of falling onto community assets or private property, or they were deteriorating or dying. One tree fell onto a home on Cleremont Landing Court, and the Conservancy ended up determining that several other trees were also in danger of falling on the same home, said Liszka.

BURKE CENTRE generally covers the removal costs if the tree is on Conservancy property, but homeowner’s insurance covers the damage to the home if a tree falls on it, said Patrick Gloyd, the Conservancy’s executive director. If the Conservancy was negligent to remove it, then it might become a situation where the Conservancy takes full responsibility, but generally it’s the homeowner’s insurance that covers it, he said.

The Conservancy’s theme is "nature and community in harmony," so it takes pride in the forested areas throughout the suburban neighborhoods. Several residents call with concerns about trees too close to their homes, but if no immediate risk exists, the trees stay.

"If we had to take down every tree in Burke Centre that could hit somebody’s house, we wouldn’t have any trees left," said Gloyd.

The Conservancy investigates the complaints to see whether the concerns are valid. If the Conservancy officials are unable to determine if a potential danger exists, they will call in an arborist to examine trees. According to Gloyd, the Conservancy can usually determine the risk on its own, though, but it is difficult to accurately determine a tree’s health.

"It’s hard to get at how healthy a tree is or is not," he said. "Generally, it’s leaning, has few leaves and it’s starting to heave."

The Gauthreauxs are upset because they say many of the felled trees in their neighborhood were perfectly healthy. Now the majority of those trees’ trunks are left, but the couple said they would never blend in naturally with their community’s small area of green space.

"We only want to keep our piece of Burke Centre as beautiful as possible," said Debbie Gauthreaux, via e-mail to Liszka.

The Gauthreauxs recently retired and are moving to Louisiana in about a month. Guy Gauthreaux said he wants the future residents of their home to be able to enjoy the scenery in the neighborhood without the distraction of the unsightly tree trunks scattered around.

"It’s hideous; it just looks bad," he said. "This looks like a logging operation where the company went out of business and just left."

Liszka said their neighborhood’s particular situation was unusual, since the strip of land is very narrow and so many trees were at risk. It is still a wooded area, though, and the Conservancy’s policy is to leave the trunks to blend into the natural vegetation. The Conservancy has removed some of the trees, but a large amount of trunks still remain.