Union’s park advisory board has spiked a request to remove a large oak tree next to the city’s sand volleyball courts.
In April, Dan Hittson, who coaches Union Jr. Ladycats volleyball, told the board branches from the tree were falling onto the courts and causing problems. He showed the board a box full of sticks and acorns taken from the court, located near the K-9-n-Kiddos Dog Park.
Hittson said the branches could cause injury and promised to plant three new trees in the park system if the tree by the courts was removed.
After discussing the tree in April and May, the board voted unanimously June 24 to keep the tree in place.
Park board members were initially empathetic with Hittson, but when members who didn’t attend in April were at the May meeting, that began to change. Additionally, several members visited the park area and talked to residents before the June meeting and came back more convinced it needed to stay.
Board member Christian Dunn said he talked to around 50 people, and only one person had a problem with the tree.
Other park board members agreed.
“I just think the optics are bad here. The ‘city of trees’ has this big, beautiful, mature oak tree in a city park; it does provide nice shade,” board member Jeff Watson said. “I’m just not in favor of taking it down.”
Board President Suzy Curnutte said it could set a precedent.
Parks Director Chad Pohlmann said the city has been using summer field maintenance workers to rake and water down the sand volleyball courts before Friday night league play to cool off the sand.
He said pieces of acorns become visible after the field is wet down. “I don’t think that they’re going to hurt anybody. They may be uncomfortable on their feet, but I don’t think there’s major complaints.”
Curnutte said she was surprised the city rakes and hoses the courts on a daily basis, when sports teams are often in charge of preparing their own fields.
Once the seasonal workers go back to school, the city will likely return to raking the court once a week, Pohlmann said.
Had the park board voted to cut the tree down, Pohlmann said the decision would have needed final approval from the board of aldermen. But no further approval is needed because no change in policy was made.
Still, Hittson is welcome to go to aldermen with his concerns, Pohlmann said.