“I've been in this particular apartment for 21 years, and I watched them trees grow,” she said. “I didn't know I cared about those trees until they weren't there anymore.”
Two days prior, residents received phone calls giving them less than 24 hours' notice that trees would be cut down. “I couldn't even sleep last night after I heard they were going to be cutting them down,” resident Christine Reynolds said. Reynolds moved to the apartment complex in 1961 and remembers when the trees were planted. For her, watching them go was about more than just losing a bit of shade. “They've been here all these years and now they want to tear them down,” she said. “I just really don't appreciate it at all.”
The short notice about the tree removal also caused some residents to think it had something to do with creating a clearer view for recent cameras at the apartment complex, but Gene Bell said that was not the case. According the director of the Asheville Housing Authority, the trees were dying and the decision to cut down them down was about safety, not security.
“We did not cut down the trees for cameras,” Bell said. “If they were impeding the view of a camera, we would just trim them back. We wouldn't cut them down.”
In fact, one Bradford pear in front of Bryson's apartment was marked to be cut down by mistake. “One boy was holding onto the tree, saying 'Don't cut it down,'” she said. “Fortunately, Mr. Bell stopped them from cutting it down.”
Bell said he thinks by cutting down these trees will ultimately benefit the people who live at Hillcrest. However, he said he does have one regret. “I would have wanted us to do a better job of communicating with folks about what was going on,” he said.
Asheville arborist Mark Foster said the removal of trees at the Hillcrest apartment complex did not involve the city, which removed ailing Bradford pears from Battery Park a few months ago.
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