‘Unhealthy, Damaged' Trees Removed Along White Rock Creek, City Says; Others Cast Doubt

Experts worry the loss of trees will hasten soil erosion around the lake

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Dozens of trees have been cut down along the banks of White Rock Creek in recent days.

Work continued Wednesday near the Cottonwood Trail, with workers using chainsaws and heavy equipment to remove the trees. Some of the trees were visibly damaged by the high winds of the EF-3 tornado that sliced a path through the area in October, but local environmentalists worry healthy trees are being cut as well.

“I was shocked because I didn’t realize it was as thoroughly cleared as I had heard about,” Becky Rader, a former Dallas Park Board member said.

The Dallas Park and Recreation Department issued the following statement Wednesday.

In the aftermath of the October 2019 tornado and subsequent storms that heavily damaged city parks and trails including Cottonwood Trail, Dallas Park and Recreation Department authorized a contractor to remove severely damaged and downed trees on park-owned property. The work plan presented to the contractor stressed the removal of unhealthy, dying and storm-ravished trees.

A review of the contractor's work shows that only unhealthy, damaged trees have been removed. Dallas Park and Recreation's reforestation program Branching Out is under way. Since the program's inception, Dallas Park and Recreation with the help of citizen and corporate volunteers has planted nearly 300 trees in parks throughout the city.

According to documents obtained by NBC 5, workers were instructed to remove trees that had lost over 50% of their canopies.

“If these were all flagged and tagged by an arborist or someone who knew what they were doing, it would feel a lot better than a contractor out cutting whatever trees they want,” arborist Steve Hauser said.

According to Hauser, canopy damage alone does not mean a tree is dead and from what he was able to see, none of the trees had been flagged or tagged by an arborist, which is typically done when a large scale tree removal project is planned.

“Unless you are knowledgeable about trees it’s just going to look like a dormant tree; you are not going to know if it’s dead or alive -- either one,” he said.

Erosion and subsequent runoff into White Rock Lake is already an established problem in Dallas and Rader worries with fewer trees to hold soil in place, it will only get worse.

“When I see dirt and no vegetation on top to hold it, that is a big concern for me,” Rader said.

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