On May 8 a Bainbridge Island Park District worker discovered copper wire around the base of a young tree at Battle Point Park. After finding some two dozen young trees at the park dead from girdling in January, Park District employees have watchful eyes these days. Painstakingly checking tree after tree, staff found about 50 more girdled tightly with wire, wrapped and twisted carefully so as to choke each growing tree over time.
Fortunately, the latest girdling appears to be recent enough that the Park District expects these trees to survive now that they are free of the long-term deadly effects of the wire. Park Services Supervisor Dan Hamlin estimates that this girdling took place between two and four weeks ago.
The trees were planted in 2009 mainly to replace the old and diseased lombardy poplars that the Park District has been removing at Battle Point Park over the last few years. Hamlin explained that the targeted trees, which include mostly native evergreens such as Western red cedars and Douglas firs, had finally established themselves for real growth.
This incident comes on the heels of January’s discovery of girdling at Battle Point Park, which resulted in the deaths of about 24 young trees over what was estimated to be about two years. The first occurrence of girdling remained undetected until it was far too late, when an inquisitive park regular and his dog found wire wrapped a few inches below the ground around the trunks of young dead trees.
This time around, two Bainbridge police officers responded to the Park District’s police report by investigating the crime scene. The police plan to patrol the park at night, driving the inner loop to check for suspicious activity.
Perhaps even more importantly, the Park District also is soliciting citizen help. Hamlin asks that all visitors keep watch and report suspicious behavior to Park officials. Signs will be posted to alert citizens to the serial girdling events and encourage assistance: “We are all stewards of the park. This is not just a park issue; it’s everybody’s issue. We want the perpetrators to know that we’re watching, and there will be consequences,” said Hamlin.
When I asked again about a possible motive, Hamlin cited a few disgruntled citizens who have complained about tree plantings disrupting the open space of the park. He pointed out that the new plantings have been intended to replace the lost canopy of removed older trees, not to displace open space, which is abundant at Battle Point Park.
Other acts of vandalism have taken place at the park in recent weeks. The Snack Shack near the baseball fields was broken into in late April. The vandals apparently took paint and used it to write graffiti messages, including on the cement wall of the Observatory. In addition, two slim but tall service berry trees were killed when they were apparently snapped at their base, breaking their trunks.
It remains unknown if there are connections among these crimes. But replacing young girdled trees with tax payer dollars at an estimated $100 per tree is no small change. Worse, losing our living neighbors to serial malicious crime is, well, you be the judge.
Report suspicious activity to Dan Hamlin at 206-842-3373 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lead photo courtesy of the Bainbridge Island Parks and Recreation Department; all other photos by Julie Hall.