City of Asheville cuts down several Edible Park fruit trees with no notice

When four mature fruit and nut trees went missing last week, and local environmental groups didn't get a heads up--it was a problem. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

ASHEVILLE, N.C. -- The city of Asheville chopped down several trees in a downtown park, without notice to volunteers or the organization that maintains an "edible park" full of mature fruit and nut trees.

The trees were at the entrance to the city's edible park, andlocal environmental groups say they were blindsided by the action.

The city says the trees had to be cut down to make way for lighting that will make the park safer.

The George Washington Carver Edible Park near downtown is packed with forty different types of fruit and nut trees. The group Bountiful Cities, which is contracted to manage the park for the city, says it was the first community food forest in the nation when it as planted twenty years ago.

And so when four trees went missing last week, and local environmental groups didn't get a heads up--it was a problem.

"When we make a mistake we're not afraid to say it, and we started the project faster than we could get the word out to everyone," said Asheville Parks and Recreation Director Roderick Simmons.

The park borders a neighborhood, and for years residents have been asking the city to improve security there. Police have gotten complaints about drug activity and vagrancy.

When officials were ready to move forward, they let the neighborhood know--but not the groups that put in so many hours volunteering and maintaining the park.

"It's a miscommunication," Simmons said. "There were different levels of the project. And before we cut, get to that final checkoff, some of the crews was ready to get started, especially with that break in the summer season. Some of them started on the job a lot sooner than we had hoped for. So we'll look internally at our processes, and see what we need to do to make sure that this doesn't happen moving forward."

The area Urban Agricultural Alliance released a long letter Monday.

It calls the tree removal unnecessary, and wants greater transparency in the city's planning processes, asking "That the city develops a process by which neighborhoods, community partners, and city committees are involved or consulted in the planning and decision-making of city actions which affect the lives or work of those groups or communities"

On Monday, officials said they will plant more than four new trees to replace the ones that were cut down.

The city also said they don't believe any more trees will have to be chopped to make way for these new lights.

They say there is no timeline on when those lights will be installed.

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