Friday, March 19, 2010

BNSF trimmers return for a little more

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BNSF trimmers return for a little more | Railway Track & Structures

Workers were back at the Hump to clean up the recent trimming job that left vegetation looking "ragged," Peace Arch News in British Columbia reports. Phase 2 of trimming started March 1 - a year and a half after protests temporarily halted the first phase - upon requests from Hump residents.

But this month's work left vegetation looking "a bit raw and rather unfinished," according to BNSF's director of public affairs, who said additional grooming was required.

"It needed to be smoother, some of the limbs needed to be cut down and tapered to more blend in with the landscape," Gus Melonas said. "It appeared to be a bit ragged in BNSF's view and we want to ensure it's more aesthetically pleasing."

City manager Peggy Clark confirmed White Rock has received assurances from BNSF that cutting will not include the area's celebrated Eagle tree or other trees surrounding it.

Meanwhile, Don Pitcairn, a community activist and former provincial Green Party candidate, continued to protest the latest BNSF trimming, describing it as a "de facto clearcut of the hump hillside."

Pitcairn, who has long said such work would threaten slope stability, attached Canadian flags to trees on the Hump earlier this month, in protest of what he characterized as "the cutting of Canadian trees by a U.S. company."

"It looks like the second phase is complete, but I'm awfully concerned we're going to see more tree cutting on the Hump at a later date," he said. "I'm interested not only in protecting stands of big-leaf maple trees but also the famed Eagle-roosting tree."

Mayor Catherine Ferguson said she and council members were satisfied after a meeting that BNSF is doing due diligence with regard to slope stability. "It's in their best interests to ensure the stability of the slope, because it's a liability issue for them if anything were to fall on the tracks," she said.

Ferguson added that there is little council can do about such tree trimming on private property. "The bottom line is that it's BNSF land, and they can do what they need to do on it. What we did say was that it would be better for us to be advised in advance of such work - that way we're dealing with something we know about, rather than reacting after the fact."

Melonas acknowledged BNSF had received phone calls from people who were unhappy with the initial work earlier this month.

"There were a few complaints about the cutting and that it did appear to be unfinished and it does impact the natural look of the vegetation."

He said BNSF consulted with the architect retained for the project.

"We all agreed additional blending should occur just for a more tapered, finalized appearance."

Slope stability and railroad safety would not be impacted, he added. "BNSF wanted to ensure that natural habitat, that the bald eagles, the evergreens, were not touched, and the cutting was done in a minimal matter."

Melonas noted the majority of calls BNSF has received about the project have been favorable.

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