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Sneaky illegal pruner whacks away in Woodstock

by: Merry MacKinnon, Woodstock homeowner Kathleen McCann holds a few of the many branches of lodgepole pine and salal that someone illegally cut from her yard and parking strip. The vigilante has struck four times in the last few months.

Each time the vigilante pruner strikes, Woodstock homeowner Kathleen McCann gets more upset.

Four times in the last few months someone has vandalized plants in the yards and parking strips of various Woodstock houses. And McCann's yard is one of them.

McCann, who lives next to Mayor Tom Potter and his wife Karin, has been spending two decades restoring her yard with native plants. With its hemlock tree, Douglas firs, and carefully planted undergrowth of kinnikinnik, bear grass, and other native ground cover, McCann's back yard looks like a Pacific Northwest mountain meadow.

Her lush sloping front yard was also thoughtfully landscaped. A swath of salal keeps the small hill from eroding and an occasional native shrub, including a graceful Ocean Spray, drapes over the glossy green salal.

But someone apparently didn't appreciate the elegant way the boughs of a mature Ocean Spray droop, because - either in the early morning or the middle of the night - they took pruning shears to McCann's Ocean Spray, and cut the branches half way up, which anyone who is trained in the art of pruning knows can ruin a plant.

The vandal also hacked at the salal, and sliced branches off the lodgepole pines growing in McCann's parking strip, as well as whacked off foliage from the Indian Plum. They even shaved off the top half of the sword fern growing in McCann's front yard.

'I was so sick about it,' said McCann, recalling the first time she walked out the door to go to work one morning and discovered a pile of branches and leaves on the sidewalk. 'I couldn't pick up the branches.'

She was again dismayed and angered, another recent morning, when she found more debris from her yard. This time, instead of on the sidewalk, the vindictive vandal dumped the cuttings on her front steps.

And McCann's yard and parking strip weren't the only ones hit. Next door, the Potters' carefully-planted parking strip features some young columnar-shaped Washington hawthorns, and the reaper lopped a few branches off them, as well.

'Karin and I were outside looking at this tree, and she was stunned,' McCann said. 'She said they even hire a professional pruner.'

Walking around the immediate neighborhood, McCann noticed other plants that had been apparently slashed in anger - a young Douglas fir with ripped branches and raw-looking rends in its limbs where the branches had been yanked off. Up the street, another yard was apparently hit.

But while the seemingly compulsive pruner appears to be on a self-appointed mission, Portland Parks and Recreation's Urban Forestry Coordinator Rob Crouch has a message for the stealthy slasher. 'It's illegal pruning,' Crouch said. 'They are breaking city code, because they are pruning in the parking strip without a permit. And it might even be trespassing.'

Crouch said he and others would try to catch the illegal pruner. And he suggested that this is a matter for the police, as well. 'It's very strange,' he said.