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Community and Rapid City work together to protect trees to be cut down near powerline

The late evening news on KEVN Black Hills Fox Sunday
Published: Mar. 31, 2022 at 5:43 PM MDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - Every five years or so, Black Hills Energy heads down to West Chicago Street to trim crab apple trees nearing a power line.

This time around, they were planning on removing nearly three dozen trees from the strip.

However, when a nearby neighbor took a peek out her window and saw all of the marked trees, she sought to protect some of them.

“It’s kind of a neighborhood thing,” says Ann Eads, who lives near the trees, “it’s a neighborhood icon. You want to save those beautiful trees. They’re gorgeous all through the summer, fall and spring. I got on social media and started voicing my concerns. People were agreeing, ‘Yeah, don’t cut down the trees. They’re so beautiful. We love them. They’ve been here for so long. They’re iconic in the neighborhood. I think it’s important for people to understand the whole story,” Eads explains, “and really it’s about education, because it makes sense to be open to other solutions other than just standing against taking trees out.”

Darrell Shoemaker, Communications Coordinator for Rapid City, says there are rules and regulations when it comes to a trees height and potential hazards, because “there are national standards for what the distance must be between the height of the utility lines and vegetation, and also to reduce fire risk.”

Eads says, “they’re going to take the tops off every single one of those trees. Really do a chop job on it. You know, when you take off so much of the tree, it really does damage the tree.”

It turns out, Eads says this is actually something that’s happened decades ago to other trees nearby, “because they go to big.”

But, Shoemaker says things changed with the initial plan to cut down 32 trees due to the open dialogue between the city and the community, because “obviously, communication is always important.”

The number of trees to be removed was brought down to just 10 sick ones. Eads says that’s because, “they don’t want the giant line of crab apple trees to get diseased and then kill off other trees in the neighborhood.” Which is something she’s noticed with one of her own trees, because “the leaves shriveling up and just dying on the branches. And, the branches just being dead.”

They plan to introduce biodiversity in the areas the sickly trees will be removed. “So,” Eads explains, “if disease comes in it won’t wipe out the entire population of the trees.” Shoemaker adds, “one of the goals here for that particular area -- replacement trees, or shrubs or vegetation they’re going to use, they’ll be looking at some of the species they can introduce that will achieve even better aesthetics moving forward.”

Keeping it looking pretty, because Eads says motorcyclists, tourists, locals and so many more all drive the strip, she “thinks they appreciate the beauty of it.”

She just hopes whatever replaces the sick trees doesn’t cause a traffic hazard by attracting animal life to a busy road, but in the end, she explains “it’s not really about what I want. It’s what works the best for the best solution for everything.”

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