Throw the book at tree killer
Perhaps a little jail time is just what’s necessary for the property owner and the contractor who lopped the tops off a half-dozen cottonwood trees on Aspen’s east side recently.A year in the county jail, wearing orange jumpsuits, stepping into the cage to hang out and smoke cigarettes with petty criminals and drug dealers would certainly give them a proper understanding of just how offensive their actions were to this community. It would also remind property owners throughout the city that we all share responsibility for maintaining our community, right down to the last blade of grass.On April 10, city parks employees discovered someone cut the tops off six cottonwood trees in front of the duplexes at 926 and 936 E. Hopkins Ave. Branches on the lower trunks were intact, but the aggressive trimming destroyed the trees, according to deputy parks director Stephen Ellsperman.The trees didn’t belong to a private property owner – they belonged to the entire community. The parks department planted the trees in the public right of way to help replace the aging population of local cottonwoods that have become so much a part of our city’s identity.The owner of the duplexes, who will now enjoy a much better view of the mountains, has remained anonymous. The property owner’s attorney, Fred Peirce, told The Aspen Times his client is “trying, through his property manager, to get the trees replaced at his [the owner’s] cost.”The city estimates that replacement costs would be about $15,000. While that’s a healthy wad for a lot of readers, it’s pocket change for many others. Certainly it represents just a fraction of the increased property value of the duplex, which now features views of the mountains uninterrupted by the clutter of cottonwoods.This, if nothing else, is a crime of arrogance. At worst it’s a crime of greed committed with the intent of enriching one individual at the expense of the entire community. Mayor Helen Klanderud has said the offender should be prosecuted “to the full extent of the law.” The mayor’s solution would fine the guilty parties $1,000 and put them behind bars for a year.That’ll teach ’em.
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