Warren mayor, preservationists reach truce on trees

WARREN — Mayor Doug Franklin and members of area neighborhood groups came to an agreement to alleviate the ongoing controversy over downed trees behind the Women’s Park prior to a city council meeting Wednesday night.

“Tree-gate,” as it’s often been referred to, started when several trees were cut down in order to make room for a bocce court and beer tent for the Italian-American Heritage Festival. The saga continued when the city offered an apology, and the apology was rejected by the neighborhood groups. The next day, the remnants of the downed trees were vandalized with spray paint.

After almost a month, an agreement was reached that the city would clean up the area starting today, which includes stump removal. Franklin also has a tentative meeting scheduled with landscapers to get schematics on possible tree replacement, as well as a committee that will work hand in hand with the Historic Perkins Homestead Neighborhood Association moving forward. Franklin also is exploring new areas for the bocce court.

Two citizens, however, still addressed council. Ray Rubrake, speaking on behalf of First Presbyterian Church, proposed the bocce courts be moved to the adjacent Perkins Park and restore the historic grounds. He also proposed that the city work with the Division of Forestry and Ohio Department of Natural Resources officials to identify and plant the appropriate trees for the area, as well as provide a plan for the proposed bocce court area and disclose the funding sources.

Bill Abell addressed the council and asked for accountability and the revival of the Arbor Commission. Previously, the commission was established in 1998 and, according to a previous interview with 2nd Ward Councilman Alford Novak, the commission made recommendations on the cutting down and planting of trees. He also said that the commission did its research on what trees were best to be planted near sidewalks, so they would not lift them and what fruiting trees to plant. Ultimately, the commission would fade and eventually operate under the parks committee.

Nola Yovich, president of the Historic Perkins Homestead Neighborhood Association, said she would be very interested in the restoration of the commission and believes the trees would still be standing if the commission were still in existence.