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Safety concerns call for park improvements

Park officials say removal of trees, sidewalk improvements will occur at Pioneer Park

by: ANNEMARIE KNEPPER/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - While safety concerns have sparked the planned removal of seven trees at Pioneer Park, Parks and Rec officials say the park will still remain shady.

The landscape of Prineville's most visable park will be drastically changing this spring, as safety concerns warrant the removal of seven trees, and the repouring of one sidewalk, city and county officials said.
   Pioneer Park will still remain shady, assured Maureen Crawford of Crook County Parks and Recreation District, as plans to replace or relocate six of those trees by late May are already under way.
   The City of Prineville Public Works and Crook County Parks and Recreation District are moving forward on a plan to improve the safety of Pioneer Park's sidewalks and trees.
   "This project involves constructing a diagonal parking lot on Elm Street within Pioneer Park replacing the unsafe existing sidewalk," said Scott Smith of Prineville Public Works.
   Seven trees will be removed from their current locations. They are five poplars and two elms. Two will be kept and replanted and four new trees will be purchased, explained Maureen Crawford of Crook County Parks and Rec. Two small maples in the park will be transplanted.
   The Bend-Fort Rock District of the Forest Service has previously donated time and equipment to transplant one tree in Pioneer Park. They are one of the only agencies in central Oregon with equipment large enough to complete the task. Crawford said that tree is now thriving.
   One of two trees, near the Bowman Museum cabin, will not be replaced, to allow the other tree to grow healthily.
   "It's a safety issue," Crawford said of the rotting trees scheduled to be removed. If left unmanaged, the trees could crack and fall in the wind, hitting a car or a person.
   Smith explained the events that led to the decision to make the park improvements.
   "Four weeks ago there was a tripping accident that happened in the area of West First Street," he said. "Through the investigation of this situation the city-county insurance rep recommended the public works staff conduct a sidewalk appraisal inventory."
   That inventory showed the Elm Street and Third Street sidewalks along Pioneer Park to be a safety issue.
   Pioneer Park is owned by the city and managed and maintained by Parks and Rec.
   "During a site visit at this location with Maureen Crawford, I was enlightened of other safety and liability issues facing the City and Parks and Rec," Smith said.
   Crawford had had a tree appraisal assessment conducted by Don Henry, former owner of Arbor Industries Tree Service.
   "It determined existing, over mature trees were rotted and posed a severe liability to both agencies," Smith said.
   "I also learned that Maureen had been looking at possible improvements to Pioneer Park that would compliment the new pavilion being built and the anticipated increase in usage of the park. Maureen proposed the construction of the diagonal parking and the removal and replacement of the at risk trees."
   Smith said he applauds Crawford's vision and has shared this plan with the traffic safety committee and other users of the park and have received very positive comments.
   The tree investigation was conducted Tuesday.
   "By completing this project we would eliminate the liability faced by the parks and the city in regards to the rotted trees and the unsafe sidewalks," Smith said.
   "Also by constructing this project in a timely manner we can save money by adding the [tree maintenance] portion to our spring overlay project and the striping to our early summer striping program."
   Crawford agreed the cost and time savings of completing one combined project are significant.
   "By doing this all at once we are taking care of our sidewalk safety, our tree safety, and getting additional parking," she said.
   The new parking design will allow for two ADA compliant parking spots on that side. Currently, there is just one.
   While this specific project was not budgeted for, both the city and county have funds available for its completion. The city public works will pay more than $9,000. The county parks and rec district has agreed to more than $3,500.
   Replacement trees will likely be an Autumn Blaze Maple variety, Crawford said. They are 40-50 feet tall with a 35 to 40 foot spread .