LORAIN — Whether residents like it or not, some of the trees in Oakwood Park are going to have to come down.
According to a letter from Ohio Department of Natural Resources urban forester and municipal specialist Alan Siewart, two of the 300 trees in the park are an “extreme risk” and need to be dealt with as soon as possible, while 109 others are “high risk” and also need to be removed.
Siewart said he considered three conditions when determining the statuses of the trees — the probability of it falling in the next year, the probability of it impacting a target when it falls and the significance of the impact.
“The primary target I considered was people using the park, but I also considered buildings and infrastructure of significant value,” he wrote. “A large tree hitting a person would be severe. However, a branch falling on pavement would likely cause little damage.”
There was major controversy surrounding potential tree removal earlier this year when, in January, the city cut down more than 50 trees in the northeast corner of the park and announced plans to cut down more than 200 additional trees.
The removal would have allowed for an overhaul of the park, costing more than $9 million with federal funds, but pushback from residents and City Council caused the city to put a hold on renovations.
In a letter to Safety-Service Director Dan Given, the city’s risk manager and insurance policy contact, Kevin Fink, said the city could be liable if the trees Siewart noted are not removed, and they cause damage.
Fink said since the trees are in a park, the city might be able to receive immunity from liability under Ohio Revised Code because people use the park for recreational services without a fee.
“If resources allow it, Lorain should not set the bar for conduct at ‘It’s OK as long as I’m not civilly liable,’” he wrote. “Further, at the risk of being a pedant, I could foresee an argument that immunity does not apply for injury to others or their property if occurring off the recreational premises (e.g., tree falls from park premises across a street onto a private residence or a citizen walking down the sidewalk).”
The trees aren’t the only thing the city needs to deal with in the park.
Building, Housing and Planning Director Leon Mason said in the coming weeks, the city will begin removing the underground storage tank on the west side of the park near the maintenance building.
The Monday Board of Control agenda indicates the city will pay TTL Associates, based in Toledo, $38,830 for the tank’s removal using Community Development Block Grant funds.
Mason said the tank likely was placed there when the city used the area as a fueling station. In order to remove it, he said, the entire park will have to be closed for an undetermined amount of time.
“It’s a matter of taking the tank out and cleaning up what we can of the leaking fluid,” he said. “And we don’t know how long that’s going to take until we start digging.”
Contact Katie Nix 329-7129 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @KatieHNix.