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Published: Tuesday, 12/3/2002

Oregon resident threatens legal action over trees

BY GEORGE J. TANBER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Marathon Ashland Pipe Line's tree-removal campaign in Oregon got the attention of Mayor Marge Brown yesterday morning. She turned up at the home of Denise McCroskey on Laura Lane at 7:30 a.m., where Ms. McCroskey was keeping watch on a black walnut tree marked for destruction and located, she believed, on her property.

Ms. Brown left around 9 a.m. and, sure enough, the tree removers turned up a short time later, cutting down a pair of trees on a Marathon easement behind Ms. McCroskey's house before setting their sights on the black walnut.

By then, Oregon police, called by Ms. McCroskey, had arrived along with the mayor and Doug Young, Oregon's commissioner of building and zoning inspection.

“If they came on my property we were going to charge them with criminal trespassing,” Ms. McCroskey said.

Marathon gained the ire of Oregon residents on Friday after they removed 40 large trees from a pipeline easement between Ms. McCroskey's Hallschild subdivision and the west side of Cardinal Stritch High School.

Marathon officials said they warned residents about the pending tree removal but a number of the residents said they didn't know about it until they noticed the trees marked early last week.

The trees - pines, evergreens, and silver maples 25 to 40 years old - were critical to the neighborhood's appearance, according to Ms. McCroskey.

“We're horrified. The whole face of the neighborhood has changed because of it,” she said.

Marathon is in the second of a three-year plan to clean-up easements along 5,500 miles of pipelines it owns in several states, spokesman Chuck Rice said. About 3,700 miles are completed.

Mr. Rice said the trees need to come down - or be trimmed - to prevent the roots from damaging the pipeline, to clear the view for aerial surveillance of the pipeline, and to create better emergency access.

“It's not pleasant to have to do that, but it's about safety,” he said.

Ms. Brown isn't buying that explanation.

“Our argument is they didn't have to do what they did. They wanted to make it easier for themselves. It leaves a bad taste so you don't even want to work with these people,” she said.

Knute Huber of Hazleton Drive said he posted no trespassing signs on several of his trees yesterday morning as a precautionary measure until he can determine whether the trees belong to him or Marathon.

“Why should I lose property value because someone wants to maintain a pipeline?” he asked. “I think the oil company ought to work with a neighborhood. They should say `We won't take them down but this is what we need to do to maintain our pipeline.'”

Ms. McCroskey has retained a lawyer and is considering a legal challenge to keep Marathon from taking down her black walnut tree until she can determine on whose property the tree sits.

Mr. Rice said the company will wait for the decision before acting.

He said the tree cutters will continue to clear the company's Ohio pipeline, which runs from East Toledo to Youngstown.

The crews in Oregon will continue moving west to East Toledo over the next several days, weather permitting, Mr. Rice said.



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