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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.

PHOTO: RAYMOND RENDLEMAN - A man enjoys what seemed like an early spring day during a walk last week through Waterboard Park in Oregon City.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 arborist’s 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.

FILE PHOTO - The Clackamas County Review endorsed Ed Linquist in 1992, prior to his re-election as a Clackamas County commissioner.Under Oregon’s 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. Lindquist’s 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 property’s 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. Lindquist’s 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 City’s 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.

PHOTO: RAYMOND RENDLEMAN - Trees that were topped in Oregon City were adjacent to this tall basalt cliff and boulder field that are beloved by the neighborhood on the southwest side of Waterboard Park.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 City’s 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 Commission’s 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 Attorney’s 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 Lindquist’s 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 wasn’t cleaned up, adding that the contractor (whom he declined to name) would have cleaned up the branches if allowed.

“You can’t 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 city’s 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 don’t 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 public’s 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 Attorney’s 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 he’s 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 he’s 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 I’m 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 I’m 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 City’s 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 Joe’s 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 contractor’s action, the city’s 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.