The Lake Oswego, Ore., property has asked the city for permission to cut down 197 trees, saying they are in poor health, structurally unsound, and causing spacing issues. The club plans to remove 56 additional invasive trees that do not require a permit. The property will still have approximately 1,500 trees on site.
Oswego Lake Country Club has asked the city for permission to cut down 197 trees that line its Lake Oswego, Ore., golf course and plans to remove an additional 56 invasive trees that don’t require a permit, the Portland (Ore.) Tribune reported.
Jessica Numanoglu, senior planner with the city’s Planning and Building Services Department, said this week that the club has applied for a Type II permit because many of the trees are in poor health and structurally unsound, as well as for spacing reasons. “The course is old,” she said, “and the trees are mature and have grown up and are interfering with some of the fairways.”
Numanoglu said Morgan Holen, the city’s contract arborist, will review the application because of the scope of the project and the large number of trees slated for removal, the Tribune reported.
The club hired its own arborist, Terry Flanagan of Teragan & Associates Inc., to perform a detailed assessment of the trees blocking the course. Flanagan narrowed the list down to the final 197 trees, along with 56 additional trees that are considered invasive and therefore don’t need the same authorization, the Tribune reported.
Flanagan said the decision process took a year and a half and also involved the course’s architects, who gave recommendations about how to adjust and optimize the fairways to minimize the tree removal, the Tribune reported.
The removal application states that many of the trees were added during planting initiatives in the 1960s and ’70s, but that they have outgrown their spaces over the years. Flanagan said that players had begun to complain about the encroaching trees as far back as the 1990s. “This is a very drastic step,” said Flanagan. “But it’s a long time coming.”
Flanagan’s application to the city says the trees would be removed “to install course improvements, turf, improve the turf health and growth and to improve the playability of the course for golf.”
“The property was developed in 1924 as a golf course,” the application states. “The trees are being removed to improve the property for its main purpose, the game of golf.”
According to the application, the removal will cost the club $125 per tree, for a total of $24,625. But the club plans to lower that cost by planting new trees in the coming year, which will lead to a partial refund based on the number of new saplings, the Tribune reported.
“Our goal is to manage our property in the most responsible way for the long-term health and well-being of the property,” General Manager Michael Carbiener said.
Carbiener also stressed that there are roughly 1,500 trees on the property, so the fairways will remain relatively wooded, even though replanting won’t replace every tree. Because the golf course is mostly screened from public view, the permit application contends, the only noticeable tree removals will be along Country Club Road, where invasive Siberian elms are targeted, the Tribune reported.
“The replanting will be done very carefully,” Flanagan said. “You don’t want to just recreate the problem 30 years later.”
Residents of the neighborhoods abutting the country club noticed a series of signs announcing the permit request last week and many were not pleased. “I find it very disturbing to remove that many trees from one property,” said resident Paul Lyons. Social media postings by City Councilor Jon Gustafson and others ignited a heated Facebook debate, the Tribune reported.
“While it is a big property, it seems to me that there’s no respect for the trees,” Lyons said.
Tree removals are a hot-button topic in Lake Oswego, where city officials have long sought to balance community aesthetics and environmental quality with residents’ often-stated desire for less-stringent regulations. In May, the city convened an Urban Forestry Summit to seek community input, and then formed a volunteer Tree Code Committee to study the issue and recommend updates to the code. That committee’s work is ongoing, the Tribune reported.
“We have learned how important trees are for the environment, health, property values and other reasons. Maintaining or increasing our city tree canopy is essential,” said Shelley Lorenzen, chairwoman of the North Shore-Country Club Neighborhood Association, who serves on the committee. “This proposed removal, along with the removal of so many trees recently in the Chandler neighborhood, is very concerning to us and many others.”
In response to neighbors’ concerns, Carbiener and Flanagan shared a detailed explanation of the club’s plans at a December 18 meeting with several neighborhood association representatives. Tree Code Committee chairman Mike Buck also attended the meeting; afterward, he said the gathering allayed a lot of his concerns and that the club seemed open to advice from the community for replanting trees, the Tribune reported.
“In the end, even though it sounds big, it’s not such a big impact as one would first imagine,” said Buck, adding that “the neighborhood boards will now be in a better position to submit comments and recommendations.”
Uplands Neighborhood Association chairman Tom O’Connor described the meeting as positive, but said he wanted more information and would be curious to see the city’s assessment. “We still want to go through the details and learn a little more, particularly about the mitigation, but my personal sense after the meeting is that while the number of trees understandably causes us to be concerned, it looks like the club has engaged a very qualified, professional arborist and (has) a well-researched proposal overall.”
Uplands resident Nancy Gronowski agreed with O’Connor. “Although I’m not a golfer, it appears that the work they are doing will result in a better golfing experience and improve the overall condition of the tree canopy, since many of the trees marked for removal are non-native invasives and many more are in poor condition. This is only a portion of the total number of trees on the golf course, Most will be retained.”
Lorenzen’s assessment of the meeting wasn’t as positive. She said she remains skeptical about the plan, particularly regarding the club’s commitment to planting new trees to mitigate the removal. “I didn’t get enough new information to really have my views modified, but I did come out with my views more discouraged about their apparent resistance to doing more than just paying the fines,” she said.
Lorenzen also said she regretted that the neighborhood representatives were not given the opportunity to walk through the course to see the trees firsthand. The tree removal request is one of several projects the country club has undertaken in the last year. In February, Carbiener announced plans to create a residential development on two acres currently used for overflow parking. Additionally, a large-scale remodel of the clubhouse is scheduled to being early next year, the Tribune reported.
According to Numanoglu, the current tree-removal request is unrelated to both projects, the Tribune reported.
The Type II permit application is currently in a two-week public commentary period, which will last until December 29. If the permit is granted, there will also be a 14-day period in which the city’s decision can be appealed to the Development Review Commission, the Tribune reported.