Letter to the Editor - Speak Up
After reading The Galion Inquirer’s Saturday, April 14th article pertaining to the “Tree City Irony,” I felt compelled to write this letter. First, I want to make it clear that I understand what our city manager was attempting to do when he directed the city employees to remove the vegetation along the Olentangy River bank from Heise Park south to the water treatment plant. The idea, although extremely antiquated, was to clear the vegetation and debris to allow the water to flow without obstruction since we have experienced more than our share of floods over the years. I am very compassionate to all those who have suffered through these floods. My wife and I have personally helped a number of families with the difficult clean up. We were also able to distribute hundreds of dollars to a number of these families through our affiliation with a Lutheran fraternal organization, so we realize how devastating a flood can be. The simple fact of the matter is that excessive clearing cannot guarantee it won’t flood again tomorrow and it only increases the chance of extreme erosion.
When I first saw the crew cutting along the river they were south of the bridge on Route 19, I thought it was a good thing they were finally clearing the brush. However, a few days later they had worked north up the river and were removing not only the brush but also the trees, including those high along the bank. I felt the trees were being destroyed for no good reason and with complete disregard to their value to our community and most importantly, our environment. As the crew continued north I became more concerned with the devastation I was witnessing and talked with property owners who were affected and was told they had voiced concern with the crew leader, but only three lone pine trees remained standing. At this point I felt strongly something had to be done.
I began by calling Crawford County Soil and Water and was told it was not a county issue. Next, I called the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and was asked to send photos. Their response to the photos was that it was an extremely excessive clearing and a “backwards-thinking band-aid approach” to flood control. Mr. Toy was then contacted by the EPA representative who requested a meeting held on March 27th. That same evening I addressed the city council and informed them that I had called the state and reported the excessive clearing and asked if we were in compliance with state regulations, etc. or could we be subject to fines from our lack of pre-approval for such a project.
I asked Mr. Toy what the project could cost us and was told there was no total cost available. City workers from various departments were all devoting their time to this project, seemingly neglecting duties they would normally be doing. When asked about the results of the meeting with the EPA, Mr. Toy informed council there was no concern. However, he had not attended the meeting. After the meeting as I spoke to several council members, I was told that they were only informed that this was to be brush and debris removal, not a clear cutting.
I left the council meeting that night thinking, since the EPA was involved that things would be done properly.
Unfortunately, after a few days the crew was back to work with the same destructive mind-set of destroying the bank and personal property on the east side of Route 598. The property owner on the north side of the river was surprised because he had never been notified of their intent to clear the trees from his property. He confronted the crew leader and asked to have specific trees spared. He was assured this would happen, but upon returning from an appointment, he found the trees gone. He is heartsick about the barren view he now has, as all the beauty has been stripped away. He stated that in his lifetime he will never regain what has been lost.
I called Mr. Lyn Makeever, our city engineer, and asked what the river project plan was and he informed me that they were in the process of surveying the river and would be comparing it with an earlier survey to determine any changes in its course.
After the clearing they would be reinforcing the banks, reseeding and applying poison to the tree stumps, as well as planting new trees. I asked Makeever why we would remove mature trees only to replant new trees and also if poison near the river is an environmental concern. I was assured by him that there was no problem.
Makeever also said the large trees had to be removed in order to allow the equipment access to the river. I questioned clearing the entrie bank when just one area would do for an access.
In conversation with Lynette Hablitzel of the EPA, she informed me that she felt the clearing was excessive, however, it did not require a permit. Lynette’s immediate concern was erosion and she stated the state requires a re-vegetation effort within three days after leaving a cleared area, but it was over a month in our case. She requested a meeting with the city officials which was held on April 3rd. The site was toured by Lynette and Michelle Sharp, both with the EPA and the coordinator of the Olentangy Watershed, Brian McCombs. They requested an immediate re-seeding with a ground cover to protect the banks from erosion. They also requested a project plan. At this meeting the city was represented by three employees, Mike Price, Doug Beugly and the city engineer, Lyn Makeever. Our city manager was not present.
On April 10th, I again attended the council meeting. The council’s first order of business was to acknowledge Galion as a Tree City and established April 27th as Arbor Day in the city. I found this quite ironic due to the circumstances.
I hope this letter helps you to understand why I had to speak up. I felt that too many times in the past our city started down the wrong path and no one questioned the decisions made.
The following from the Iroquois is something we should all take to heart:
“In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations.”