MADISON, Wis. - A group of residents of an east side neighborhood are banding together to save its tree canopy.
Neighbors say nearly three-quarters of Jenifer Street's roughly 40 trees have been removed due to a nearly $3.5 million construction project, which started Monday.
They've organized a group called Madison Canopy Street Trees dedicated to preserving tree canopies in historic neighborhoods throughout the city.
Marquette Neighborhood Association volunteer Gary Tipler said the city is replacing the trees with smaller shrubs, which don't offer the same canopy cover or aesthetics.
"The problem with that is people's houses will be in permanent sunlight, no summer shade," Tipler said. "The trees filter street lighting. They filter views for privacy, they buffer the sound. They provide habitat for birds and they have an aesthetic that can't be measured."
Tipler said the tree canopy is deeply important to neighbors and the value of having a large amount of tree cover can't be replaced.
"What the trees do for us is something that is remarkable and that is individual for each person," Tipler said.
Dennis Nuzback, who has lived on Jenifer Street since 1961, said while construction is inevitable, the trees should be preserved as much as possible. Nuzback lives in front of what he said is the oldest tree on Madison's east side.
"They're improving the street, that's what they have to do," Nuzback said. "This is the oldest tree here on the east side of Madison and they're preserving that one, but they shouldn't be cutting all of those other trees down."
According to residents, nine trees are temporarily being marked for preservation. Tipler said city officials would be able to save the remaining trees by agreeing to bury high-voltage power lines that run along Jenifer Street. He said without a power line burial, the remaining trees would face certain removal.
Tipler said he believes the plan would be cost-effective. He said after neighbors asked MGE to give an estimate of how much burying the lines would cost, the company sent an electrical engineer, who determined it would cost $197,000.
Tipler said Madison officials told him the city didn't have the funds to pay for burying the lines, but he is hopeful that city leaders are beginning to come around.
"We were told it wasn't in the budget," Tipler said. "I think that the idea is gaining traction. It's going to be something that will be reconsidered."
"I think that there's a will and we will find the way," Tipler said.
Tipler said he hopes city officials will consider putting underground power lines in other historic, dense neighborhoods with tree canopies facing removal.
News 3 reached out to officials from the City of Madison forestry department Thursday afternoon but did not get a response. Construction is expected to go through October.
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