A plan to trim trees in Anchorage’s Town Square Park drew a small crowd of protesters early Thursday morning.
Municipal Parks Superintendent Holly Spoth-Torres said the effort was part of a plan to make the downtown park safer by increasing visibility under several of the large spruce trees that line the park.
Maintenance crews planned to take about four feet off the bottom branches when they were met by several members of the Anchorage Garden Club. The protesters were angry about an earlier incident in which nine trees were felled in the park.
“They say they are limbing this up for the issue of safety, and that’s not true,” said Nickel LaFleur. “The trees are not the problem, there may be some behavior here that is unacceptable but that is not the tree’s problem.”
But Anchorage police say the park has been safer since the trees were taken out in early May. The area where they stood in the northeast corner of the park was the scene of drinking and drugs; even a sexual assault. Nancy Harbour, who runs the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts next to the park, said she’s also felt safer since the trees were cut down. Harbour said it makes it harder for people to hide and discourages illegal activity.
In the end, the crews who were trimming trees Thursday morning didn’t get to finish their business: It stopped when a bird nest was discovered in one of the trees.
Spoth-Torres said they will try again in mid-July when baby birds are likely to have gone. She added that the municipality has no plans to cut down any more trees. They will wait to see if the work already done makes a difference in keeping crime down in town square.