CINCINNATI — “Honk to save these trees.”
That was the message Kathy Brinkman and a handful of residents were carrying on signs downtown last week.
Brinkman and the others are fighting a local corporate giant and the Cincinnati Park Board to keep them from cutting down a handful of trees in Lytle Park. Signs attached to the trees say "Why kill me? I'm stumped", "Leaf me in peace" and "Don't send me to the chipper."
But it's not laughing matter to Brinkman.
“The park is the front yard for the residents. It’s not just the front yard for Western & Southern’s two hotels,” Brinkman said.
The fight is over four 50-year-old London Planetrees that Brinkman compares to her “teenagers.”
Western & Southern, which is paying $1.6 million to help renovate the park, wants those trees replaced by a row of 4-inch saplings "that will produce trees consistent in height and appearance."
Brinkman says Lytle Park has been her front yard since 2005. She goes there “almost every day. I either walk by it, through it.”
And the highlight for her are those London Planetrees, which she calls “lovely, majestic, healthy, mature.”
“The plan to … cut them down and replace them with a row of 4-inch saplings makes no sense! It’s an insult to the trees,” Brinkman said.
“We have watched them grow from babies to adults and they’re not even adults yet! They’re probably teenagers.”
Brinkman said the London Planetrees help the air quality and she argued that the trees are in a historic district where the guidelines say to not cut down mature, healthy trees.
That’s why she is taking her fight to the city’s zoning board of appeals.
“I’m going to stay here and fight for as long as I can to keep the trees,” Brinkman said.
Last December, Western & Southern Senior VP Mario San Marco told Cincinnati Parks staff that the company would not have funded the majority of the project cost if they had “any inkling that you would ask to change the plans at this late date.”
San Marco added that the park board approved the proposed plan with the tree removal included.
“We are grateful that Western & Southern has donated more than $1 million into the renovation of this park, but these trees are not for sale,” Brinkman said.
WCPO reached out to Western & Southern for an interview. When that was not possible, the company gave us a statement that said it “supports the plan for which the park board sought and received approval from the historic conservation board.”
Cincinnati Parks also provided a statement saying it is “happy to go through the appropriate process and previously received approval from the historic conservation board.
Four days ago, WCPO reached out again to Cincinnati Parks asking for more comment specifically on these four trees. We have not heard back.
The zoning board of appeals will hear Brinkman’s appeal Friday morning.