City: Tree case remains under investigation | AspenTimes.com
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City: Tree case remains under investigation

John Colson
Shelby Lee/The Aspen Times
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Aspen officials have not identified the culprit who cut the tops off a half-dozen city-owned cottonwoods on East Hopkins Avenue in April, and police reportedly continue to investigate the matter.Assistant City Attorney David Hoefer, who is in charge of the case, on Thursday said he has yet to receive a report from the Aspen police, although Hoefer said he believes “we have interviewed everyone” who is associated with the case.Hoefer insisted that the matter is being treated as a high-priority investigation.”Obviously, we consider it to be a serious case,” he said.The trees are on city property and belong to the public, and anyone convicted of damaging city property faces possible penalties of up to a year in jail and up to $1,000 in fines.

Shortly after the damage to the trees was discovered, Aspen Mayor Helen Klanderud said the culprit should be prosecuted “to the full extent of the law.”On Friday, the mayor said she still feels that way but noted that a deal has been reached with an unnamed east-side property owner who owns a duplex adjacent to the damaged trees, and that the amount of money involved is greater than any potential fine would have been.City parks officials reported last month that the homeowner has offered to pay the costs of replacing the trees and the topsoil in which they are planted, and installing an irrigation system to water the new trees.City officials were unsure at the time what the replacement effort would cost, but Aspen’s urban forester, Aaron Reed, said in April that replacement of the trees alone could cost as much as $15,000.As for identifying the culprit, Klanderud said, “The city is not in a position to make allegations without actual proof that somebody did anything.”She said it was her understanding that the police are still looking into it, and that she will continue to monitor the situation.

“I’m more interested in seeing that this does not become a pattern of activity” than in broadcasting the identity of the perpetrator, Klanderud said. But she stressed that the city is not protecting anyone, despite concerns by some residents that the perpetrator may be a wealthy property owner whose identity will never be publicly revealed.”Under no circumstances does the city give preference to anyone simply because of their financial worth,” Klanderud bristled, adding that if anyone is harboring suspicions along those lines, “it’s not true.”She said she is aware that another group of trees, on the same street and right next to the trees damaged in the latest incident, also were topped in a similar fashion a number of years ago.But, she said, she is unaware of anyone being prosecuted for that earlier topping incident.”It’s interesting that they’re right next to one another,” she said.

Klanderud urged residents with information about either case to get in touch with police or City Hall.The trees in the most recent case are broadleaf cottonwoods planted a few years ago on the grassy strip of land between the sidewalk and the curb in front of a duplex at 926 and 936 E. Hopkins Avenue. The neighboring topped trees stand in front of a group of luxury townhomes built on the site of the Valley High Apartments, demolished about a decade ago.According to Pitkin County records, Rapids East LLC owns half the duplex at 926 and 936 E. Hopkins, and Plastics Management Inc. owns the other half. Both corporations are listed at 53196 N. Main St. in Mattawan, Mich., and the registered agent for both corporations is Ron Molitor of Aspen, whose address in the telephone book is listed as 926 E. Hopkins.Attempts to contact Molitor have been unsuccessful.John Colson’s e-mail address is jcolson@aspentimes.com


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