It was probably inevitable that plans for an expanded, redesigned Japanese garden in Lithia Park would run afoul of those who object to cutting down any tree anywhere for any purpose. On Monday, the city’s Tree Committee voted to spare two Douglas firs that garden designer Toru Tanaka wants to remove. The Ashland Parks Foundation has sided with Tanaka.
The Parks Commission will make the final decision after a public hearing Jan. 28. Before they do, commissioners should consider that preserving two trees at the expense of the new garden design runs counter to the very essence of Japanese gardens, which are meticulously designed to mimic a natural landscape while being tightly controlled.
The garden overhaul is intended to transform the existing “Japanese-style” garden into an authentic Japanese garden. Tanaka’s design calls for cutting down two of 12 fir trees because they lean over the rest of the garden, they cast shade over a planned bamboo grove and they drop debris. Also, their roots interfere with a planned retaining wall. Fittingly, their wood will be used in a planned tea house and other features.
Parks officials seem overly concerned with whether the trees are healthy. Parks Director Michael Black promised to get a certified arborist’s opinion, but the trees’ health is really beside the point. They stand in the way of a project that will add value to the community — not to mention 200 new trees. Removing two old ones seems to us a small price to pay.