Sara Nelson and some of her neighbors are feeling blindsided.
Every single tree along a stretch of Underwood Avenue in their Dundee neighborhood is marked for removal.
As early as Friday, crews will begin cutting down 22 trees to make way for a $2.5 million Dundee business district improvement plan.
The trees, which include silver maples and locusts, are in the public right-of-way of Underwood Avenue from 49th to 51st Streets.
They'll be replaced by a redesigned streetscape that adds parking spaces, new trees and individual gathering spots for people to socialize.
Gone, though, will be the leafy canopy of large, older trees.
“They're destroying what makes Dundee, Dundee,” said Nelson, who owns a home at 48th Street and Underwood Avenue.
Nelson was among those protesting the tree removal at a neighborhood rally Thursday evening. Another sign of the protest was the red hearts that had been painted over the red X's that marked the trees for removal.
City Councilman Pete Festersen and Molly Romero, a Dundee neighborhood and business leader, said numerous meetings have been held on the changes, so people shouldn't be surprised.
“I don't know how anyone could have missed this,” Romero said. “It's disheartening that someone would jump in at the last minute.”
Festersen and Romero said the trees are being removed due to their poor health, to accommodate the new streetscape and to accommodate a water main replacement by Metropolitan Utilities District.
“This has been confirmed by the project design consultant, landscape architects, city urban design manager and the city forester,” Festersen said.
However, MUD officials say the water main can be replaced without removing the trees.
Nelson also questioned claims about all the trees being in poor health. Her group is seeking an independent assessment of the trees, she said.
The Dundee business district “should respect the residents who have made them so successful and bragged about them to the rest of Omaha,” Nelson said. “None of us understood how extreme this plan was.”
Festersen and Romero said 24 trees will be planted to replace those being removed.
The project is being funded through a mix of public and private dollars, including money from the Peter Kiewit Foundation, Robert B. Daugherty Charitable Foundation, individual donors and more than 30 Dundee merchants.
“I'm sorry they (the protesters) can't see what it's going to be like,” Romero said. “It's going to be beautiful.”
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