City Acknowledges "Renegade" Workers Did Cut Down Trees in the Great Trinity Forest

Categories: Park and Rec
treestumpinforest.jpg
Photos courtesy Rawlins Gilliland
A few weeks ago we looked into whether some Park and Rec workers got a little too chainsaw-happy in the Great Trinity Forest -- specifically, near the soccer and baseball fields in the Gateway Park on the west side of Jim Miller Road. It was brought to our attention by, among others, frequent KERA commentator and friend of the show Rawlins Gilliland, a self-proclaimed "tree-a-holic" who lives nearby and stopped the workers from taking down any more trees. At which point Willis Winters, Park and Rec's second-in-command, explained that after a preliminary investigation, trail maintenance workers raised the tree canopy at the request of Dallas PD, which had noted "ongoing illicit activities in the park and in the woods."

That's the same thing Mike Hellman, manager of planning and acquisitions for the Dallas Park and Recreation Department, told Winters in a report dated July 28, which Winters forwarded to Unfair Park and which follows in full. An excerpt:
In response to requests from the Police Department, park staff began to clear out undergrowth, consisting of invasive privet, vines, and dead wood that has fallen to the ground. The low hanging tree canopy was pruned minimally to a height of approximately 6-8 feet. Also, few dead trees were removed. There was no removal of any protected trees, or any live or healthy trees.
But, so happens, that was not the case. Winters called yesterday to explain that after further investigation late last week, his folks went back to the site for a closer look. At which point, city forester Karen Woodard discovered that Rawlins was right all along.

"There was indeed another area further up the hill, toward the Scyene Overlook, which we do consider part of the Great Trinity Forest," Winters tells Unfair Park. "We heard there was some additional pruning that was not brought to Mike's attention. Our urban forester went there late last week and said, 'Boy, this is an issue,' and we now see what the concerns were."

TreeCutDowninTrinityForest.jpg
Just one of several photos of cut-down trees Rawlins found in the Great Trinity Forest
Hellman then went back to the site and found the very same tree stumps Rawlins posted to his Facebook page only this morning. Several large trees, some as large as eight-inch caliper, had been chopped down. In the Great Trinity Forest. Says Winters, "There was no reason to take them down."

So, then, how did this happen? How did Park and Rec workers decide it was a good idea to begin destroying trees in a forest?

"There's not a whole lot to mow right now," notes Winters, who says a park mowing team was to blame. "The grass is dead all over the city, so since they're not spending much time on mowing, they're starting to undertake what we do in the winter, tree-pruning activities, and this particular team took it upon themselves to do this pruning without the consent or input of their supervisors or the consent or input from the urban foresters."

That, he says, will stop. Immediately. At least, that's the plan.

"This was a renegade pruning operation that no one knew about and that was not reported back through the chain of command till we found out about it late last week," Winters says. "There was unfortunately some damage done. We're taking steps to make sure it wont happen again, but I wanted to acknowledge it did happen in this one area and was not endorsed or coordinated ahead of time with any of our forestry supervisors."

Below is Hellman's original report dated July 28.
From: "Hellmann, Michael"
Date: July 28, 2011 7:54:52 PM CDT
To: "Winters, Willis", "Tarpley, Debra"
Cc: "Dyer, Paul", "Brescia, Carolyn", "Jenkins, John"
Subject: Re: Status information

I have visited the site and have reviewed the reasoning behind the work. Here are my findings:

There is a creek that runs in a north-south direction, for approximately 750 linear feet, in the center of Gateway Park on the west side of Jim Miller Road. The park is developed with two soccer fields, a baseball field, parking lot, and picnic tables, which are on the west side of the creek. There is parking and a soccer field on the east side of the creek. The park is heavily used. It is currently operating at full capacity during this visit at 7:15 pm Thursday evening. Every available facility is being used by children, adults, and families.

The creek edge, which is approximately 25 feet from creek to open area, is heavily grown with a mixture of trees and low growing vegetation. This dense edge renders the creek virtually invisible to view from within the park and creates a dense hiding area for illicit uses. In fact, my inspection revealed a multitude of items not compatible with the park environment, including evidence of drugs, trash, human feces, and homeless encampments.

In response to requests from the Police Department, park staff began to clear out undergrowth, consisting of invasive privet, vines, and dead wood that has fallen to the ground. The low hanging tree canopy was pruned minimally to a height of approximately 6-8 feet. Also, few dead trees were removed. There was no removal of any protected trees, or any live or healthy trees.

Two small sections of the creek edge was treated before crews were stopped (I assume), including a 100 foot section and a 30 foot section. This treatment resulted a clear view into the creek area from within the park.

It is my opinion that this work is being done correctly and in a very prudent manner: improving visual security, removal of invasive Privet and vines, removal of dead or very poor trees where necessary, and pruning low hanging limbs. By no means can this work be characterized as "clear-cutting." I believe this work enhances the park, not only for visual security, but to open the creek as a visual amenity and a natural area of interest. Any argument that the work is removing low growing wildlife cover is greatly offset by the security concerns. I feel that the entire length of the creek in the developed portion of the park should receive this same prudent treatment, or at least several more "visual openings" to realize the benefits described above.

Please let me know if you need any additional information.

Mike

Sponsor Content

My Voice Nation Help
40 comments
knee high converse
knee high converse

stay the best. with thanks considerably to get writing the following excellent posting so that you can united states,.

fake trees
fake trees

Dang renegade city workers walking around doing the work without orders and collect paychecks for it. I'm sure you use the leather jackets and custom motorcycle.

Timdalbey
Timdalbey

DPARD needs to clean up the parks and I have been on them about Gateway for the last two decades.  Just because the drought has hit and there is not enough to mow there are so many other things DPARD could be doing such as picking up the trash especially behind the tree lines in Gateway park.  Even though there is a drought and not enough to mow DPARD or the city mowed the signed zone with "No Mow" and "No Mow Wildflowers" along the east side of Jim Miller south of the tennis courts to Bruton in Gateway park two weeks ago.  They left the litter or mowed through it and created more.  The sidewalks through this corridor are bordered by non-native Tree of Heaven, poison ivy, Chinese privet, Nandina, and  many other undesirable species that could and should be removed if there isn't enough mowing to do in Gateway.  They could put in anti-erosion features in Scyene Overlook to reclaim the slopes that have been made barren by ATV'ers so these natural areas can rebound.  If they can't come up with the ideas they can have their public meetings for consultation because these meetings are made up Master Naturalists, and others that can willingly help.    

It is not clear what prompted the DP to request the basal trimming of trees and vegetation along oak creek through the west side of Gateway park, but they were probably put up to doing it by some other entity and not on their own.  They never care about the illegal vendors in the parking lot on crowded evenings, parking in "No Parking" zones along Santa Cruz, the myriad of times gun shots go off in the park at night, and all the other illicit activities, so why do they care about creek lined vegetation now?  DPARD needs to begin to think out of the typical "grounds maintenance box" and when they can not do their normative work be creative and do constructive work.      

Watching South Detroit
Watching South Detroit

So what discipline was taken on these "renegade" pruners?  Their supervisor is obviously incompetent since he/she had no idea what was going on.  How is the supervisor going to be held accountable for being a bad/clueless supervisor?  Why don't they know the difference between "pruning" and just chopping a tree down? 

Guest
Guest

shoe diameter > stump diameter

zaner
zaner

"Rawlins Gilliland" is an anagram for "Dallas Lorax."

(Not that) John M
(Not that) John M

The same renegade pruners who clear-cut the NE corner of Skillman & NW Hwy a mayor or two back?

Heywood U Buzzoff
Heywood U Buzzoff

Rogue Pruners would be a great name for a geriatric rock band

Grumpy Demo
Grumpy Demo

"renegade city employees"?

Ladies and gentlemen, I have now solved the JFK assassination.

Grumpy Demo
Grumpy Demo

The city owned hotel is gonna be AWESOME!

At least for the DO writers that is.

TimCov
TimCov

Those dang renegade city workers running around doing work without orders and picking up paychecks for it. I'm sure they wear leather jackets and ride customized motorcycles.

Jay Hawk
Jay Hawk

Can these renegade city crews patch potholes and fix stoplights, too?

MattL1
MattL1

Renegade Dallas city employees are running around with chainsaws.  Sounds like a decent premise for a horror movie.  

lorlee
lorlee

I don't think is going to be getting any better when the privatize park maintenance under the new budget. We will have minimum wage workers without benefits -- we should be better than that.  Currently at the pocket park next to me they managed to remove the mulch around the trees from our approved tree plan -- guess they didn't want to have to mow around -- and now the trees are suffering, after the neighborhood has worked to maintain them for 5 years.  Also they were clearcutting the trees and hedge that provides a buffer between the park and the homes.  Fortunately, we were able to stop them but they have not been back to replant something as promised.

Meanwhile we are still spending that tax increase money on mowing the highway right-of-way.  Personally I would rather see better maintenance in the parks and let TXDot do their twice yearly mowing. 

Ben
Ben

I have never seen any evidence of a "homeless encampment" in that area. Complete bullshit. The only homeless camps are south of Military Parkway and west of White Rock Creek. Miles away, Opposite bank from the Parks and Recreation Department Service Center on Parkdale.

Total number of hobos in the Great Trinity Forest is ZERO. There is not one single bum or hobo anywhere down there. Not one. There was a homeless female that lived in that Grover Keeton area a couple years ago. She passed away and her remains were found on the trail sometime later.

Brenda Marks
Brenda Marks

Can we charge the city the same tree mitigation fee that I would be charged if I cut down street trees?

james
james

renegade cit workers out to prevent illicit activity makes me feel much safer.

Johnnydirtseed
Johnnydirtseed

Bullshit, those two stumps appear to be a Cedar Elm and the top one a Cedar tree.  Those are desirable.  Now, if you want to cut, abuse and torture privets, I'll applaud you.  But, those two pics are not what they describe. 

I did some similar work in a park near me, the park's arborist came and didn't say a thing.  We did remove a few roughleaf dogwoods--which are desirable, but also thicket so a few casualties was nominal.  I can understand the city not wanting renegade operations, but I did detect some significant dissonance between the police and parks.  The police would love the area clear-cut and paved, probably outfitted with klieg lights.

We opened the thicket along the creek to allow a nature trail, raising some limbs out of harm's way, and I believe the park arborists was pleased with the result.  The creek was full of trash and litter that had washed down stream.  This prompted them to clean up the creek, and was generally a win-win. 

Subsequently we got some informal license from the park's dept. to do other little projects, like erosion control, remediation.  I often have top soil with some sod in it that I scrape away to install flower beds, that I have to dump somewhere.  I'm under the impression that we are allowed to deposit that soil and occasionally rocks and boulders to improve the park.  I wish there was a way to expand this, as that dirt isn't wanted by the dump, or anyone else.  So, why not allow us to use this responsibly?  There's another area where across the street from a customer where a creek has eroded the bank.  I've built that back up with those same rocks and soil, always being careful to remove trash and litter.

Perhaps parks could allow some of us to adopt certain areas where erosion and other issues can be addressed responsibly with care and caution.  I know it looks bad sometimes, but this is different from simply "dumping" materials without regard for what's left behind. 

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

Kind of hard for me to believe that there are "renegade" city crews that go around creating extra work for themselves.  Why can't the person who ordered this operation just step up and take responsibility like a big boy/girl?

The way the City of Dallas is (mis)managed makes me want to put a fist through a wall.

Rawlins  Gilliland
Rawlins Gilliland

Well, this once again is why the Observer & you, RW, matter.  Because this is not merely about 'renegade' crews thinking that instructions to 'clear' an area (of underbrush) meant 'scalp it to the dirt s if you were building a McMansion onsite.  It is about accountability, and more to the point, ultimate admissions of wrong-doing by city of Dallas services that had been earlier denied.  In the end, this also becomes an example of citizen activism that is merely cries in a well without the support of media watchdog participants who care enough to step in and step up.  Otherwise we act on what ewe discover are made to appear strange & obsessed by pointless concerns. 

So, truly,  I thank you for this. 

As it were, the original reasons given were suspect & the original excuses lame.  The truth is laid as bare as the site.  However, I believe the young man I originally confronted, whose name I know well, was no 'vigilante' on a 'renegade' crew; I believe he was given vague instructions by careless supervisors who could not care less.  As for forester Karen Woodard, in my mind the jury's still out.  Cased closed.

cp
cp

It's in Southeast Dallas, they don;t think anyone bothers enough to care.

NewsDog
NewsDog

No, their job is to grab a jackhammer, block off traffic and make more holes in the streets.

Justin Julian
Justin Julian

Not to derail the topic, but we'll have minimum wage workers...who work for a company that can, theoretically, lose the contract AKA get fired.  City employees?  Yeah, good luck with that.  They won't even say these 'renegades' got fired or even disciplined for what they did here.

DallasMike2U
DallasMike2U

"Total number of hobos in the Great Trinity Forest is ZERO." But the alligators are looking mighty plump this summer.

scottindallas
scottindallas

The homeless are a sneaky game, you might be surprised.  I don't know the area that well, but I have seen evidence of homeless encampments in the Trinity forest.  A friend and I have kicked around trying to camp out somewhere there some night, haven't yet, don't know if its legal.  I can't see what it would hurt, we're responsible campers.  Call me a scofflaw if you will.  Does anyone know if it is illegal to camp there?

Rawlins
Rawlins

You are correct; no 'encampment(s) per se.  However, a a man does live in the forest & in fact I give him a lift to get groceries & meds & eat at the MLK mission from time to time, in fact today.  His name is Charles & he is a very nice man in his 50s who, one can tell, was once very smart & quite handsome.  Now he does what he can to survive.  He walks probably 7 miles daily.  He is a harm to no one.  It took me years to win his trust enough that he would allow me to give him a lift, to converse.  But the issues they (city/police?) claimed were integral to the 'thinning' & brush removal by the 'renegade' workers (who believed 'clear' brush means' scalped embankments') was reputedly sexual in nature.  (Certainly according to the sniggering arborist last night at my HOA.)  Now, thanks to Wilonsky's push that became a shove, it appears that was a smokescreen more than a 'where there's smoke' issue. 

james
james

balaclavas...city workers.

Rangers100
Rangers100

Good work, Rawlins. Thank you for caring enough to pursue this.

scottindallas
scottindallas

I'm not impressed with the city arborist.  I've had to teach them that the native trees I'm planting are good, with supporting materials.  That said, after a while, they've deferred to my wisdom which is an improvement.  Someone needs to do this--city arborists, and I don't know how you institute this as policy.

Rawlins
Rawlins

scottdallas, the Forest is 6000 -8000 acres stretching from Scyene Rd almost to I-20.  So although camping is not yet available, it's also a forest so wink-wink...it's not like it is something illegal in the 'in trouble' sense.  I know that the longtime plan is to make campsites as a fundraising aspect of the Forest.  Meanwhile, I encourage everyone to visit the Trinity River Audubon Center on loop 12 between I-45 & I-175.  It's bragging rights Dallas, 2 miles south of me.

Ben
Ben

Like I mentioned in the comment section of a previous story, I have seen folks using drugs(weed) in that portion of the park. I have seen this on weekends, in the evening during daylight hours. You can go to any soccer field complex in Dallas and find this. The copious amounts of wadded up tissues are a tell tale sign of prostitution. Once again, it's a problem everywhere, Gateway Park is not some kind of hot bed or ground zero for it. Most parks have this problem.

The drought conditions have defoliated the vegetation so much in the last few weeks that the trimming was not needed.

If you want stupidity, someone trimmed the Mexican Cherry trees at Anderson Bonner Park(Park Central and 635). The limbs removed were loaded with near ripe cherries. That particular species of tree is drought tolerant and the trees that were trimmed were only planted 5 years ago. Trimming was not needed there either. It was done just for the sake of being done.

Meanwhile 50 feet away, Ligustrum Sinense laughs. The last guerrilla warrior of the Far East. Wearing down the empire. Winning every battle. Killing through attrition.

james
james

full of typos ain't i? where did balawhatevers come from?

Rawlins
Rawlins

Rangers100, w/o the help of the incredibly fine Wilonsky, their claims that this was harmless response to sexual activities would have been the dead end.  I, yes, raised hell but only Wilonsky can get the details in the Devil.  W/o his help, God knows how far for how long this irreversible chop shop would have been my Gateway Park welcoming committee.

Grumpy Demo
Grumpy Demo

What kind of arborist promotes pruning trees in the middle of a drought with record high temperatures?

Mine told me to do major pruning from October to March.

Reminds me of the time the City sprayed herbicide on all the trees in the median on Royal between Hillcrest and Royal.

Beda
Beda

It would be nice if the city arborists returned phone calls also; I called the woman in charge of the area east of white rock lake and have not received a return phone call.

scottindallas
scottindallas

nothing wrong with trimming now.  If you notice trees and plants jettison lower leaves to cope with drought anyway.  This lesser trimming is not all that time/season sensitive.  Neil Sperry recommends trimming in Summer as the tree's sap flows/pressure are likely lower now in drought than in wetter, more comfortable times. 

Now Trending

Dallas Concert Tickets

From the Vault

 

General

Loading...