A group upset with a plan to cut down over a dozen ash trees in Carman's downtown have plead their case to local officials. About forty business owners, members of the Carman Garden Club, representatives from the Carman and Community Chamber of Commerce and other rate payers fought to keep the trees at a Tuesday morning meeting with Council officials.
The Town says in order to properly replace the sidewalks along 1st Street, the trees need to go because the roots are interfering and causing the surface to heave.
Marge Warkentin, owner of Nine Lives Fashions, said the trees make the business area a welcoming place and provide shade for shoppers as they make their way down the street.
"If you watch, during the summer particularly, people visiting on the street will be standing under the trees. It kind of calls people in and it's hard to imagine what the street would look like if they were just removed and all that was there was sidewalk."
Scott Johnston is a Director with the Carman and Community Chamber of Commerce and said all of the responses to a member survey indicated that local businesses would like the trees to stay.
"The business owners like the look of the trees in front of their buildings, it just changes the appearance of the buildings. The businesses (also) like the shade they provide to their buildings, keeping them cooler. But I think the biggest thing is just the beauty that it brings to the street."
"When you look at downtown Carman...there's a real softness to the street because of the beauty of the trees and to remove the trees I think would be a real loss," he added.
Lorraine Stevenson is a member of the Carman Garden Club and said that the trees have been standing since the late eighties, are mature and in good health which makes them an asset to the community. As an organization heavily engaged in horticulture and arboreal culture, she added Garden Club members felt it was important to speak up and that Council needs to revisit the decision.
"Carman Council needs to understand that these trees are huge assets to the downtown, and they're more important to Carman residents than I think anyone ever thought."
Warkentin said that the Town's plan needs to be further discussed with the community to see if there are alternatives that would save the trees while also improving the sidewalks. She would like to see a cost analysis of installing a barricade around the tree roots and resurfacing the sidewalk using the existing concrete blocks versus taking out the trees and pouring cement.
"I'm okay though if they save the trees and pour cement as well, but I'm just not sure there's been a cost analysis done of which one would be more expensive."
On the flip side, both Warkentin and Johnston said if Council sticks to its decision to remove the trees they would like to see a plan for replanting or further beautifying 1st Street that would continue to draw people downtown.
Meantime, this issue has become quite a passionate one around town with people tying ribbons around at-risk trees. The ribbons include encouragements like "Save the trees" and "Let's have good sidewalks and trees." Quite a few letters have also been submitted that ask Council to reconsider the move.
"When you walk down the street and look at the ribbons I think it speaks quite powerfully that the community wants to see the trees stay," noted Johnston.
Following Tuesday's meeting, Warkentin said she is hopeful that the delegation served as a sober second opinion and that Council saw just how many people in the community care.
"This isn't something to take lightly, it's a pretty monumental decision to be made right now. It will impact the town for many many years to come as far as the appearance and the health of our town."
Stevenson added that evidence of how closely Council listened to the group and how seriously they take these concerns will be reflected in the decision that is ultimately made.
Council did not comment following the Tuesday meeting but an official says members will bring forward their thoughts and plans when they meet Thursday morning.