As the sounds of construction rattled on in downtown Boulder, a silent protest played out on the remains of recently felled trees.
In black marker, a passer-by wrote "Why?" and "Trees (greater than) concrete" on two of four stumps that now line the 2000 block of 10th Street.
An aspect of the city's $1.2 million West Pearl Streetscape effort — a seven-month-long project from 11th to Seventh streets that entails replacing sidewalks, installing irrigation systems and redesigning some intersections to favor the accessibility of pedestrians — includes the removal and replacement of dozens of existing trees.
"It was the same feeling I had when I saw workers cutting the Christmas tree, or the holiday lights, out of trees rather than unstringing them ... It was a little jarring to see a row clear-cut," said Dan Condon, a Boulder resident of 10 years.
While some residents, business owners and property owners have expressed concern about the chopping down of existing trees, city officials say that the wooden casualties are or were dead, dying or diseased.
The city is removing 42 trees, planting 37 trees of varying varieties and keeping 57 in place as part of the West Pearl Streetscape project, said Ashlee Herring, communications and special event oversight coordinator for the city's downtown management division.
The majority of those removed were Green Ash trees, said Ken Fisher, forestry assistant for the city of Boulder. Those that were cut down were in "terrible shape," Fisher said, adding that they incurred severe storm damage were missing terminal leaders.
"Some trees were dead ... most were dying; they were all infested with the Lilac-Ash Borer," he said, referencing the moth and larvae that are destructive to ash varieties.
The city chose to replace the trees with a variety of species of maturing shade trees such as Hackberry, Kentucky Coffeetree and London Planetree.
Additionally, the city is installing an irrigation system for the trees and building larger tree wells. In the past, the trees were hand-watered, Fisher said.
"As an urban forrester, it's my job to plant trees for the future, and many of these trees that were removed were trees that maybe were going to be around for five more years," he said. "(The new trees) will be around, hopefully, for the next 50 years or more."
However, some of the plans involving the southwest corner of Ninth and Pearl streets — notably the removal of a Mulberry tree and landscaping — are not sitting well with Frank Hagan, who has owned properties on that corner for more than 20 years.
Hagan and Yolanda Gonzalez own the residential building at 842 Pearl and the neighboring 840 Pearl commercial building, home to Eight Days a Week. Hagan estimates he and Gonzalez have invested more than $30,000 outside the properties in sidewalks and landscaping efforts such as planting and maintaining the trees and the flowers in the tree wells.
The Mulberry tree in addition to some neighboring Boxelder and other varieties are on the chopping block.
The Boxelder sustained some damage and the Mulberry tree is not a "desirable street tree" as the berries can fall during the summer, leaving a mess, Fisher said. The trees, which are too big and would come at a hefty cost to transplant, also are causing damage to the sidewalks, Fisher said
Additionally, the West Pearl Streetscape plans call for a "bulb out" sidewalk, concrete, bench and grass on the southwest corner. The right turn lane from Pearl turning south onto Ninth will be controlled by the stoplight as opposed to the previous slip lane.
The changes to Ninth and Pearl complement other efforts a block east to make the west end more safe and friendly toward pedestrians, Herring said.
The project also includes the installation of signs and "totems" to identify the West End area and bolster activity and business in the area, she said.
The West Pearl Streetscape is one of 80 projects funded by the $49 million Capital Improvement Bond voters approved in 2011. As part of requirements under that bond, the streetscaping work has to be completed by March of 2015.
The project is on schedule and slated for completion in October, Herring said.
Hagan, however, said he's concerned that the character of Boulder is slipping away.
"They're going to turn the whole area into some monolithic, Cherry Creek design," he said.
Contact Camera Business Writer Alicia Wallace at 303-473-1332 or email@example.com