The sound of chainsaws rang out Friday morning as city officials announced an expanded effort to clear out alleyways choked off by trees and other vegetation.
Councilmembers joined neighbors in the 3700 block of Sydenham St. to kick off the tree cleanup. The narrow alley looked more like a rainforest than a passable walkway, with vegetation climbing up homes and blocking access.
A tree-cutting crew entered the alley and began removing the vegetation, which included vines that snaked up the backs of homes, and a 30-foot tree that started out as a weed, said Council President Darrell Clarke. Clarke wanted to take to the tree with the chainsaw himself, but was stopped by workers who wouldn’t let him do it for insurance purposes.
“Ultimately the tangled dangerous mess is messy, unsightly and makes it difficult to remove these trees because of the enormous expense that comes with trying to remove them,” said Councilmember Cindy Bass.
The city is offering to help residents clear out the alleys through the Neighborhood Preservation Initiative.
Clarke said the initiative was made for doing things like removing trees to keep neighborhoods safe and keep people from being forced to leave their homes because they can’t afford to do such maintenance.
These are “strong neighborhoods that haven’t gotten enough attention, frankly speaking,” Clarke said. “But at the end of the day, this $400 million NPI initiative will be in a position to do things like this.”
Ryan Ambrose, the director of the Neighborhood Preservation Initiative said that tree removal is just one part of the effort.
“Our partnership with the City Council allows us to use these dollars for programs like this. On top of that, we are making investments in affordable housing, helping to untangle titles, investing in commercial corridors and other neighborhood infrastructure projects,” Ambrose said.
A half million dollars has been budgeted for the tree removal this year. That figure could go up next year depending on resident demand.
Bass said her office has seen a 300% increase in requests for removal of the trees in the past year, because people just cannot afford the money it costs to properly take down the growth that lifts up concrete and makes the alleys unpassable.