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Tree cut down near memorial causes friction in Austintown

Leaders say it was a hazard

AUSTINTOWN — Jill Neidig, a Canfield resident who regularly weeds and helps maintain the 9/11 Memorial Park in Austintown, said she feels the removal of a tree near the recycling bins there was “unnecessary.”

The tree, estimated to be around 100 years old, was taken down in order to make way for lighting around the recycling bins, which have been overflowing every weekend since curbside recycling was suspended in the township because of COVID-19.

“What concerns me is that we have a Green Team that’s recycling so we don’t have to cut down trees, but now we’re going to cut down a 100-year-old tree?” Neidig said.

Township Trustee Jim Davis said parts of the tree were dead and posed a hazard to vehicles in the lot. He said township park supervisor Todd Shaffer and independent consultants from a tree removal company determined parts of it were dead.

The tree also was obstructing the area where electrical poles are being installed.

“The tree had to be removed,” Davis said.

Neidig said she wants a “better explanation” for the tree removal. A professional arborist should have looked at the tree to determine if it needed to come down, she said.

She said the tree was visually beautiful and helped obscure the recycle bins from the 9/11 Memorial Park. The two township-owned sites occupy opposite sides of a parking lot on Raccoon Road. The sites are often overflowing, Neidig said.

“I think the whole recycling thing — if there’s really an issue with that much dumping — is it worth doing if people are going to abuse it?” Neidig said.

Davis said the recycle bins were at that location prior to the creation of the 9/11 Memorial Park. The Mahoning County Green Team pays the township to have the site there, and it is the township’s responsibility.

The site has been overflowing on Sundays, when the bins cannot be emptied because the transfer station in Poland where county recyclables are taken is closed. The station also is closed on Saturdays, but bins are emptied and materials remain in trucks until Mondays.

Green Team department head Louis Vega previously said service to the Raccoon Road bins — one of the busiest recycling sites in the county — has been increased since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A gate is being installed at the Raccoon Road site, so access to the parking lot where the bins — and the 9/11 memorial — are located can be closed off when bins become too full or are being serviced. The only time the gate might be closed for a longer period of time is on Sundays when the bins are full, Davis said.

“The 9/11 memorial is open 24 / 7,” Davis said. “Parking is available across the street at the Austintown Middle School if the lot is closed.”

At their next meeting, township trustees are expected to accept a $12,115 grant from the Mahoning County Green Team for the improvements to the recycling site, according to Township Administrator Michael Dockry.

The 9/11 Memorial Park creator, Pat Connolly, said he didn’t like that the tree was removed, but understood why the township wanted to remove it and it was on the opposite side of the parking lot from the park.

“That’s life,” Connolly said. “What’s done is done. You’re not going to put a 110-year-old tree back. Everything is fine.”

avugrincic@tribtoday.com

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