Complaint spurs more downtown tree chopping 

Never let a tree stand in the way of the Range Riders.

Last week, the city chopped down several young aspen trees downtown near the statues of men on horseback at the corner of Pikes Peak and Cascade avenues, across the street from the Antlers Hotel.

The city's Parks and Recreation Department was dispatched to the scene to eliminate the unsightly trees after an anonymous critic took pictures designed to show that, from certain angles (ie: when you stand right in front of the tree) the aspen trees partially block the full view of the statues. The pictures were taken in autumn, when the leaves of the trees were in full fall color.

"I myself think it's very natural looking, with the horseback riders coming out of the trees," said Dennis Wade, a maintenance technician with the city's Parks and Recreation Department who was dispatched to, Paul Bunyon style, whack down the offending aspens.

"But heck, what do I know? What the public wants, the public gets."

And actually, the aspen trees will likely rebound, because of their root systems. Wade said that the complaint about the trees, which was handed down by Mayor Mary Lou Makepeace herself, originated from an anonymous source.

Ride 'em cowboy

The cutting of the trees adjacent to the Range Riders statues comes just weeks after Colorado Springs, which prides itself as a nationally designated Tree City USA city, cut down 34 trees downtown -- some of them 20 to 30 years old -- as part of a business improvement plan. Ten of those trees were diseased, city workers said.

Whoever took issue with the trees near the sculptures of the two men on horseback took issue with the vegetation even partially obstructing the view.

The Range Riders formed a half century ago to promote the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo. The group, which donated the statues to the city, comprises of a group of men who every year truck their horses up into the mountains and ride a predetermined route -- including through aspen tree groves.

At the end of the day the men end up in a mountain meadow, where tents have been set up and they eat a catered dinner and play Western-style games.

Women have historically been banned from the festivities, but two years ago Makepeace, the city's first female mayor, was invited to attend.

Civicall to the rescue

Makepeace, who is out of town this week on city business, took the complaint and was given the strategic photos of the trees blocking the statues. Then she forwarded it to the city's Civicall system that records and tracks complaints, according to Amy MacDonald, the city's citizen services coordinator.

MacDonald said that as of the end of October this year, 866 citizen complaints have been through its Civicall system. Last year, 725 complaints were recorded. In 1998, the first year the $4,500 system was operational, 944 complaints were recorded.

The complaints vary, but reports of potholes are common, as are laments that lights are not timed to the flow of traffic and roads have not been plowed after snowstorms, MacDonald said. When a citizens file complaints, they generally need to provide their name and telephone number, and then the item is funneled to the appropriate city department, where they are given five days to respond.

"The citizens are our eyes and ears out there," MacDonald said. "We can't be everywhere all the time, so we really rely on them."

But sometimes, a complaint comes in that the city cannot fix. For example, a woman called in, upset because her neighbors had bought a truck that she thought they couldn't afford.

Another complainer reported that her neighbors kept bees, and the bees were flying over to her backyard and drinking from her water gardens.

"Sometimes they're kind of strange like that, and a little outlandish," MacDonald said. "A lot of times it's just neighbors not getting along and they want the city to get involved, but we just don't do that."


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