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Montlake residents breathe sigh of relief after hazardous tree removal

The city's Parks and Recreation Department determined old poplars overlooking Portage Bay had root decay.

SEATTLE — Two large poplar trees that once stood in Seattle's West Montlake Park are gone after one fell naturally and the other was removed by the city.

"There was sort of a relatively minor wind storm and this tree just fell in the water," Caleb Wilkinson said.

Residents who live in the neighborhood, adjacent to the Seattle Yacht Club, urged the city to consider removing the trees that sit at the edge of the water overlooking Portage Bay. One of the trees overturned and fell into the water in early August, according Wilkinson, who along with fellow neighbors, discovered the fallen tree the next morning after they assumed it fell. The fallen tree barely missed a park bench.

"I call it a dead body in the water, it's a huge poplar tree," said Caleb's father, Rob Wilkinson, who said he has lived in the neighborhood for at least 40 years.

Wilkinson guesses each poplar weighs at least a dozen tons and was concerned if children were near the water.

"I'd like my kids to play here without trees falling on them," Caleb Wilkinson said.

This week, a Seattle Parks and Recreation crew began removing the tree that fell into the bay, according to Parks and Recreation Communications Manger Rachel Schulkin.

In an email, Schulkin said the tree that fell naturally had decayed roots from disease. The discovery led the department's head arborist to order the removal of a second poplar right next to it, as it was determined it might also be infected with disease, according to Schulkin.

"It's sad to see them go, but it was time," said Rob Wilkinson.

Though the Parks and Recreation Department handled these tree removals, trees outside of public park areas that are potentially hazardous must go through an approval process by the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections if the tree is deemed "protected."