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The Investigator | Thousands of dead and dangerous trees threaten safety of Clevelanders

Cleveland may be nicknamed 'The Forest City,' but among its city-owned stock are ailing and dead trees scattered throughout neighborhoods.

CLEVELAND — It’s grown into the number one complaint among Clevelanders.  Thousands of diseased, dead and dangerous trees, ready to topple and posing a threat to safety along our neighborhood streets.

Cleveland may be nicknamed the Forest City, but among its city-owned stock are ailing and dead trees scattered throughout neighborhoods.

The city has a list of 3,300 city-owned trees along street lawns that need to be cut down. Council members and neighbors say some of those trees have been on that list for more than a year and a half.

“This is a safety issue,” said homeowner Robert Jackson on the city’s west side.

Homeowners complain the city has fallen so far behind on tree maintenance that rotted trees and limbs are crashing down not only during storms, but randomly when neighbors least expect it.

“It’s fallen on my cars and everything,” said Richard Sisson. He says he’s complained repeatedly to the city about a tree he says threatens his home and family.

“It’s unbelievable. I’m afraid it’s going to fall on one of my grandchildren,” he said.

Others say neglected trees are creating major tripping hazards on sidewalks.

“This has gone on way too long and it needs to be fixed,” Jackson said. 

In addition to dangerous trees falling over, the city has nearly 6,000 poorly-maintained trees that are in need of trimming.

“I’ve been here since 1975. I think I’ve seen tree trimmers twice that I can remember,” said Chrristine Dunn.

Clevelanders may have to wait even long for tree crews to arrive. The city has a 23-year cycle for trimming trees.

“In other words, a tree gets planted, and it takes 23 years to prune that tree,” said councilman Brian Kazy.

His colleague, councilwoman Jasmine Santana, says dangerous trees, not potholes, are now the number one complaint among neighbors. “It’s a problem that has gotten way out of control,” Santana says.

Kazy blasted the city’s urban forestry department, calling it the worst run division in the city.

“By the time we learn a tree is dead or needs trimming, just to get an answer from urban forestry takes roughly 10 weeks, which is not timely when it poses a hazard,” Kazy said.

Mayor Frank Jackson said Kazy is frustrated and he understand why. The mayor said the city would no longer respond to complaints only. It is launching a strategic plan that would remove dead and dangerous trees throughout the year.

“If it’s dead or dying this year, our goal is to eliminate the backlog,” Mayor Jackson said.  

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