Hartford’s 10-day tree removal waiting period sparks criticism following child’s injury

HARTFORD  -- An accident in a Hartford park put the spotlight on a controversial city ordinance.

A tree was marked for removal, but before it was taken down, it fell on a boy Tuesday night.

The 11-year-old boy will be okay.  The incident happened on the basketball court.

On Wednesday, there was yellow caution tape up and the tree was cut into pieces, but it all comes just a little too late.

“I was just shocked,” remarked Emilio Lopez of Hartford. “I didn’t really think that any of these trees that big could really fall.”

It fell on the boy while he was playing basketball with some friends at Hartford’s Goodwin Park, where the stump is still visible. The basketball court is just feet away from a kids splash pad and playground.

Just feet away from the tree that fell, there are two additional trees with a posted yellow sign marking them for removal.

The city said they will be removed Thursday. Over the last several weeks, Hartford has tagged more than 100 trees for removal. The tree that fell was visually inspected, found to be unhealthy, and tagged for removal, but it wasn’t deemed an emergency threat, which would have required its immediate removal. The forester would determine if a tree is an emergency threat.

The criteria is largely based on if the tree is hollowed out.

City officials told said that knowing when a tree might fall isn’t an exact science.

“We have perfectly healthy trees that come down without any sort of warning. And other trees that don’t look as vibrant that end up staying up forever,” said Hartford’s Interim DPW Director Michael Looney.

Per city ordinance, once a tree has been flagged for removal, the public has a 10-day window to comment.

“A timing issue where we hadn’t reached the point where we were by ordinance allowed to take down the trees.” Said Looney.

“I think it’s ridiculous,” said Hartford resident Emilio Lopez in response. “I think if the tree is no good just take the tree out.”

The city said it’s rare to get a comment about a tree but it does happen, which could trigger a hearing.

From an insurance perspective, the issue of liability gets complicated.

“If the town does have that 10-day period. They do have a duty to respond. They did put the tape up, so again, they are in that kind of grey area I think,” said Jonah Evenson, the owner of the Evenson Agency in Wethersfield.

As for those two other trees flagged with the yellow notice, they’ll be taken down Thursday.

The mayor’s office told said they haven’t ruled out amending the city ordinance.

The mayor’s office said that just because the public has 10 days to reply once that yellow notice has been posted, doesn’t mean the tree would be cut down on the 11th day. That 10 days is the minimum amount of time that it would remain standing.