In Overland Park’s Round Hill neighborhood, city removing 20 mature oaks for stormwater replacement

Crews from Arbor Masters were on site Tuesday continuing the removal of several mature oak trees in Overland Park’s Round Hill neighborhood.

Some homeowners in Overland Park’s Round Hill neighborhood are mounting a last-ditch effort to get the city to halt the removal of 20 mature oak trees that line the streets of the site of a half-mile stormwater project.

Round Hill resident Karen Eichenberger sent a message to Overland Park officials Monday asking the city to suspend the felling of the trees “and take a hard look at the plans and make any and all adjustments to save this irreplaceable resource our city has taken 50 years to grow.”

Orange spraypaint marks the trees set for removal as part of the stormwater project.

Crews from WaterOne and Kansas Gas have been on site in the neighborhood, just east of Nall between 87th and 91st Streets, for several days working to prep the site for the stormwater system replacement, which public works officials say is needed to address deteriorating metal pipes that are likely nearly 60 years old. In addition to addressing the failing pipes, the new concrete stormwater infrastructure is expected to help minimize drainage problems that could cause flooding.

But the planned removal of 20 oak trees along the stormwater pipe path has some neighborhood residents upset.

“Round Hill has been my family’s home for over 12 years, and one of the top features that drew us to this neighborhood were the thousands of mature Oak street trees lining our quiet roads,” Eichenberger wrote. “It is THE feature that makes so many Johnson County neighborhoods, especially the foundational subdivisions of Overland Park’s formative years, so beautiful and special, and still desirable places to call home.”

Public works officials say the deteriorating stormwater pipes in the area, similar to these found in another Overland Park neighborhood, need replacement to address drainage and potential flooding. Photo credit city of Overland Park.

Overland Park Project Manager Lauren Garwood said the decision of whether to remove a tree or not boils down to whether the tree would likely suffer damage as a result of the construction process. Even is the stormwater work would not disturb a tree’s trunk, excavation anywhere in the vicinity of the drip line “could cause major damage you wouldn’t see for a couple of years.” That damage would ultimately kill the tree in many cases.

The city stresses that it will be replacing every tree that it removes during the project, and that homeowners who have had trees removed will get to choose what kind of tree will be planted in its place from a list of species put together by the city forester.

But Eichenberger says the city should have done more to notify residents of the impact of the project.

“[It’s] an example of Public Works not respecting massive resource for our city and getting the city forester and parks department involved to work together and work harder to protect our beautiful trees,” she said. “… we are not in a vacuum and this work will continue to be done on more streets at the detriment of more neighborhoods.”

Eichenberger shot a photo of a recently removed tree and illustrated the outline of the canopy that had been removed. “This tree’s canopy stretched across the entire street and almost to the house to the right,” she wrote. “A terrible loss.”