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Elks Building trees not saved, cut down: Neighbors disappointed with decision although replacements planned

Dickinson resident Eric Smallwood looks across the street Wednesday at the trees south of the Elks Building. The trees were cut down Friday to make room for new ones as well as landscaping.

For the last five years, Dickinson resident Eric Smallwood enjoyed looking out of his apartment window at the trees across the street by the Dickinson Elks Building. But a Tacoma, Wash., developer cut down the trees and made way for new ones Friday.

Smallwood said it was ironic that the workers started cutting the trees on the day that the city planned its annual Arbor Day celebration, which focused on trees in downtown Dickinson.

He was in his apartment June 9 when he heard a chainsaw. When he looked out, men were cutting into the tree.

"I was like, 'Holy cow! What are they doing?'" he said.

He started taking pictures but caught the workers' attention.

"He turned his chainsaw off and got on the phone, and after a few minutes, he put his chainsaw away," he said. "They obviously knew they were doing something they shouldn't," adding it was weird they stopped when they noticed he was watching.

Granville Brinkman purchased the building from the city in 2005 to renovate. A 2007 fire caused delays, and his company, New Care Construction, was involved in a lawsuit for the fire.

The city gave Brinkman five extensions to complete the building. He has $82,500 from the city to finish the landscaping. If he does not finish before June 30, the city could take that funding away.

Brinkman did not immediately return phone calls to The Dickinson Press on Friday.

The workers finished cutting down the trees Friday morning.

The trees will be replaced and streets lights will be added around the building, City Administrator Shawn Kessel said, adding Brinkman had permission to chop them down.

"The developer suggested a different set or a different kind of tree be placed in there," he said. "We thought it would be better for the building itself and tying into the rest of the architecture."

Smallwood didn't see why the trees had to be cut down instead of being saved.

"Five years is a long time to get to know this tree that I like a lot," he said. "I'm at a loss for words."

Smallwood is not alone in his sentiments.

"Dickinson can't afford to lose beautiful downtown trees," said Dickinson resident Aleta Hendricks, who has also watched them grow for years.

Dickinson Urban Forestry Committee Chairman Robert Keogh told The Press he didn't know the city decided to cut down the trees. The trees were mature and it is a shame to cut them down if they don't have to be, Keogh added.

"As a committee, we regret this happened because we worked very hard to get trees in downtown Dickinson and these trees that were along the south side of the Elks Building were nice trees," he said.

Keogh understands that the city is concerned how it looks and residents should have seen that the sidewalks would be an issue. However, he wished the committee would have been involved in the decision. The committee can only advise the city on urban forestry.

"I think what does is it points out perhaps a need to have a policy to follow when these type of things happen," he said. "Not that we could have stopped it, but maybe we would have talked about it."