Former county commissioner, state legislator apologizes for unauthorized tree cutting
Ed Lindquist to face charges of criminal mischief, trespassing -
A former state legislator will face criminal charges after hiring a contractor who caused an estimated $237,400 in damage to an Oregon City park.
Ed Lindquist, who also is a former Clackamas County commissioner and firefighter, faces charges of first-degree criminal mischief and second-degree trespassing for topping trees, according to his criminal defense attorney, Bruce Shepley. Given the extent of the damages to city property, Lindquist has gotten a competing arborists report that estimates only $21,375 in damage. The pending charges have maximum sentences of five years prison time for the criminal mischief and 30 days for the trespassing.
Under Oregons timber-trespass law, Lindquist, 77, could be subject to triple damages for a civil case resulting from the charges, once the criminal case is complete. Lindquists attorney hopes to reach a settlement with the city that would be closer to $20,000 than $200,000, and with no timber-trespass damages that could send the total bill above $600,000, with the higher damage estimate.
My client is acknowledging that he made a mistake, Shepley said. He intended to help the city with Waterboard Park, but he did so without permission from the propertys owner, the city of Oregon City.
Oregon City contracted an arborist who concluded on Oct. 16 that the 26 bigleaf maples and one madrone tree were a complete loss that could only be remedied through complete removal and replanting. Lindquists arborist on Jan. 11 counted 23 bigleaf maples and one black cottonwood (no madrones) that were affected by the cutting. This competing arborist concluded that the trees could be brought back to health through three years of corrective pruning and maintenance to the understory, including invasive-species removal.
The trees in Waterboard Park were designated as a heritage grove by Oregon City commissioners on Oct. 2, 2013. Oregon Citys heritage-grove designation indicates that the stand of trees is of landmark importance to the city due to their age, size, species, horticultural and ecological value or historical association.
Heritage trees or groves receive protections from city code that are not normally afforded to trees on private property in Oregon City, so future city commissioners would have an extra hurdle to develop Waterboard Park. Although the designation of Waterboard Park as Oregon Citys only heritage grove may not directly affect criminal charges against someone cutting trees on public land, it has increased the public interest in the case.
Lindquist said that he and other neighbors who have hired contractors to work in Waterboard Park were not made aware about the City Commissions vote to name a heritage grove.
Lindquist immensely sorry
Formally, the state of Oregon and city are being investigated as the victims in the case. However, the Clackamas County District Attorneys Office has agreed to consult residents of the Waterboard Park neighborhood at major stages of the criminal proceeding so that their voices can be heard, according to McLoughlin Neighborhood Association spokesman Jesse Buss.
So far, those voices are uniformly calling for prosecution to the full extent of the law, Buss said. Waterboard Park, and each part of it, is a public asset. That includes the trees that were illegally cut and the views those trees helped to provide. Those views, as they were, are now gone.
Shepley said he had no objection to the neighborhood acting as a quasi-victim in the case.
If the trees belong to everyone in the city, then everyone in the city is a victim, Shepley said.
Buss said that the habitat under Lindquists house on the bluff where locals have enjoyed walking, jogging and hiking on the park's trails has been damaged beyond repair. The nature trail leading through the forest was blocked by downed trees.
Now, from many places in the neighborhood, instead of trees, you can see a house perched on the edge of the bluff, Buss said. That house now has a pretty good view of the river valley.
Lindquist denied the accusation that he had the park trees next to his Oregon City house topped in order to get a better view, but he acknowledged that the case has been complicated by the fact that Waterboard Park is on the border between two neighborhoods. He said that he also was disappointed that the mess from the tree-cutting wasnt cleaned up, adding that the contractor (whom he declined to name) would have cleaned up the branches if allowed.
You cant do anything after the police come and say stop all action, Lindquist said.
Lindquist said he was part of a group of Rivercrest neighborhood homeowners that did not know about the citys rules when they hired a tree service to cut dozens of trees at Waterboard Park. Lindquist added he was not alone among locals who were concerned about the trees dying and creating a fire hazard.
All of my fears about fire dangers dont make an excuse for not going to the city first with the problem, Lindquist said. I made an error, and I am trying to resolve it. I am immensely sorry.
Case moving forward
Buss and the neighborhood association see this as a case of private benefit gained at the publics expense. They do not believe the public should have to bear the cost of the damage caused by an illegal tree cutting.
Oregon City police and the Clackamas County District Attorneys Office are taking the case seriously. Oregon City Public Works contracted certified arborist Joseph Harrity to estimate the extent of the damages to public land.
The Clackamas County deputy district attorney assigned to the case, Eriks Berzins, said hes been getting quite a number of emails from community and neighborhood members about the case. His response has been that this is an active investigation, and that hes not prepared to speculate about timelines for getting the case charged.
I am incredibly cognizant of the importance that this case has for the community, and Im always appreciative when people take the time to voice their concerns about public issues, Berkins wrote in a statement to the community. At the same time, please understand that this case is certainly not falling by the wayside, and Im working to address all of the issues that it presents.
Berzins told the Oregon City News that he could not comment on the pending case, and he could neither confirm nor deny the report that charges against Lindquist soon would be filed.
Competing arborist reports
Oregon Citys contracted arborist pointed out that topping of trees is considered poor practice by horticultural experts.
Topping leads to tree early senescence (deterioration), poor regrowth and a multitude of structural problems, Harrity wrote in the report. Also, they typically will die much sooner due to extending areas of decay that cannot be inhibited, and stresses associated with a lack of energy.
Certified arborist Chris Nash did not dispute the problem with topping the trees, only the calculated cost of fixing the issue.
I immediately recognized that Joes methodology in obtaining data and his format for Cost of Cure was flawed, in that Joe improvised evidence and failed to use appropriate guidelines for the determination, Nash wrote. Corrective pruning of the topped trees is a necessary step to maximize the chance for physical and ecological renewal of the forest and slope.
Nash added that in a worst-case scenario, assuming every topped heritage tree dies as a result of the contractors action, the citys heritage-tree ordinance would require mitigation by planting more replacement trees than the number that died. He estimated $11,600 to plant and maintain the 36 2-inch maples and four 2-inch black cottonwoods, assuming a more than one-for-one replacement would be required to replace the dead trees.