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Chopping down trees for park playground upsets the neighbors

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah--Condominium residents along Wasatch Boulevard were upset Monday when work crews, hired by Salt Lake County, chopped down about 50 pine trees to make way for a playground, reported by Cathy McKitrick of the Salt Lake Tribune.

"I heard the chain saws all day long and can see the stumps right out my window," said Carl Little, whose home borders the Golden Hills Park, which is adjacent to a fire station. "I was very upset. I think they went too far."

So did Mike Peterson, director of Cottonwood Heights parks and recreation service district. He responded quickly to Little's calls Monday and arranged a meeting between county officials, the service district and park neighbors.

"Originally, this part of the park was a tree farm," Peterson said. "After years of drought, it had old trees in bad condition that needed to be thinned."

Peterson described the 10-by-50-foot area as having four to five rows of tightly planted trees. He met on-site with the county's landscape architect and a consultant hired by the service district. That's when specific trees were marked to come down.

"At that point I asked, 'Do we have to take down this many trees?' " Peterson said. "I accepted their professional opinion that they needed to come out to put in the playground."

But after hearing Little's complaint and revisiting the site Monday, Peterson reconsidered. "I figured we should hold off and not take any more trees until we had a meeting with the residents and the county architect," he said.

Peterson asked the work crews to stop cutting. But workers checked with county personnel and were told to continue.

That's when Little contacted Peterson again, who made another site visit to ask the crews to halt their work.

Meanwhile, another condo resident, Paul Sjoblom, wondered why the playground could not be put on existing open space in the park.

"They had acres of other space where there were no trees where they could have put the playground," Sjoblom said. "The county's motto seems to be, 'if it's green, cut it down.' Today, they've devastated the area."

Peterson said the park's open area was already earmarked for activities such as kite-flying, picnicking and frisbee tossing.

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December 14, 2019, 7:45 am PDT

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