Someone has killed several large trees along the Burke-Gilman Trail near 77th Avenue Northeast in Northeast Seattle by drilling holes in the trunks and pouring in herbicide.

Share story





Urban forester Mark Mead was called to check on some dying trees along the Burke-Gilman Trail this week when something peculiar caught his eye: quarter-inch holes, 1 inch apart, had been drilled all the way around the trunks of seven trees.

The trees, about 70 feet tall, grew along the trail in the View Ridge neighborhood at Northeast 77th Street. Three poplars were dead, as were two of the Douglas firs. Two other firs had started to turn brown.

From the blackened leaves and dead root sprouts on the poplars, it appeared someone had injected a herbicide into the holes.

City officials and some neighbors believe the trees may have been targeted by someone seeking a better view of Lake Washington. The poplars showed signs of previous intentional damage.

One uphill resident asked the city about topping the trees a few years ago. Earlier this year, some nearby condo residents also asked whether the trees could be trimmed, said Dewey Potter, spokeswoman for the parks department. The request was denied.

On Thursday, the city parks department issued a statement about the killing, saying a police report had been filed and urging anyone with information to call the Seattle Police Department at 206-625-5011.

Officials estimate the value of the trees at between $40,000 and $60,000 and say it will take up to 30 years for replacement trees to reach maturity.

“This loss is significant,” Parks and Recreation Superintendent Tim Gallagher said in the news release. “There are so few conifers in this area of the trail. No matter how often private citizens damage publicly owned trees, it is always shocking.”

Several residents of View Ridge, which stretches uphill from the trail, confirmed that blocked views of the lake are a frequent source of neighborhood disputes.

Mary Jackson, who lives just above the trail, said she’d gotten into a recent spat with neighbors who pruned a tree on her property while she was out of town.

“We’ve quit going to any parties up the hill because they’ll just talk about how awful our trees are,” she said.

Jackson said her own view had grown more obstructed by the Burke-Gilman trees over the years but was dismayed that someone would resort to killing trees.

“I hope they find whoever did it. This is not the right way to go,” she said.

Nancy Bolin, president of the View Ridge Community Council, said she sent an e-mail to the neighborhood urging anyone with information about the tree killing to come forward.

“I don’t understand why anybody would do this. We need more trees right now with global warming, not fewer,” she said.

Every year, the city deals with four or five such cases in which people illegally kill trees, according to Mead.

Among the most well-known is the case of federal Judge Jerome Farris, who paid the city more than $600,000 in 2006 for cutting down trees in Colman Park to open up a view to Lake Washington. Farris, a judge on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, told a jury that his gardener mistakenly clear-cut nearly an acre of the park in 2002. The gardener, Duc Huynh, said Farris ordered him to cut down the 120 trees.

This week’s discovery “is very bad déjà vu,” said Potter. “It brings back that whole bad feeling.”

Sonia Krishnan: 206-515-5546 or skrishnan@seattletimes.com. Information from the Seattle Times archive was used in this story.