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Parks Division to study House of Wickersham trees

Neighbors praise officials willingness to listen to concerns

Posted: Wednesday, June 17, 2009

State Parks officials are delaying their plans to cut trees at the historic House of Wickersham until they know more about the property's cottonwood trees, said Mike Eberhardt, Southeast parks superintendent.

Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire

He said after the tree issue is decided, they'll address the parking issue at the house, which is located at 213 Seventh St. downtown, an area known as Chicken Ridge. The house was built in 1898 and was home to Judge James Wickersham.

Neighbors were dismayed that big old cottonwoods were going to be cut and replaced with smaller mountain ash. Eberhardt said that plan has now been but on hold until an arborist can examine the trees.

"I just requested a report on these trees' condition, and what he thinks of them," Eberhardt said.

Eberhardt said the big issue for him was whether the cottonwoods, old by cottonwood standards, can be saved. If they are a danger to the public, then they can't be saved, he said.

"I'm not going to spend the money to remove them if they aren't hazard trees, but if they are hazard trees, then it's not an option," he said.

Parks officials held a public meeting after Chicken Ridge neighbors objected the changes to the House of Wickersham property.

Most of the 55 people in attendance were opposed to cutting the trees, said neighbor Skip Gray, and were happy to hear they might not have to be cut.

Neighbors also praised the Parks Division's willingness to listen to the concerns of those people who lived nearby.

"By and large most people in the neighborhood were reassured by what they heard at the meeting," said neighbor Marianna Carpeneti.

Eberhardt said they should know within a week the condition of the trees, and said the public would continue to be involved in whatever is done with the site.

"I was very impressed with their attitude, and their willingness to keep us in the loop," Carpeneti.

Parks officials also wanted to expand public parking at the house, but Eberhardt said that issue will wait until they know the fate of the trees.

"That's kind of on the back burner, waiting to resolve the issue of whether the trees are going to stay or not," he said.

Most people at the meeting did not want to see the size of the lawn shrink, Gray said.

Carpeneti said she'd like to see evidence that there is a need for more parking before she'd consider giving up the lawn.

• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.



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