Dying for a better view

By Karl Schweizer

Herald Writer

EVERETT — A view of Puget Sound adds value to any home. But someone may have been willing to kill for a better one.

Donna and Larry Hartman returned from a trip last week to find that someone had girdled all seven evergreen trees in the backyard of their home overlooking Puget Sound, stripping the bark in a way that guarantees the trees will die.

Naturally, the Hartman’s were shocked, then angry, then grief-stricken.

"We love our trees. The last thing I ever would have thought is that someone would take it on themselves to damage them," said Larry Hartman.

Hartman is hoping someone will tell police who did it, and better yet, whether it is possible to save the trees, most of them more than 60 years old, at his home at 3222 Mukilteo Boulevard.

One of the savaged trees, a hemlock, didn’t limit anyone’s view, but it did have sentimental value. It was a Christmas gift the couple received 17 years ago when it was just 18 inches high. They planted it, and it grew up outside their bedroom window. Vandals girdled it, too.

Hartman said he fears the deed may have been done by someone who didn’t want the trees to block their view.

If so, it wouldn’t be the first view-related killing around here, says Scott Neuert, an Edmonds arborist with 20 years in his profession.

"Definitely, it seems to be a trend that when people leave on trips, to have neighbors trespass on their property, pruning, removing branches, or doing a number of things to their trees," Neuert said. "I’ve taken a number of trees down that have been poisoned for view purposes."

Edmonds police Sgt. Gerry Gannon said his officers occasionally are called to disputes about trees being cut down. When a tree is cut down against the property owner’s wishes, whoever does it commits trespass and malicious mischief, he said. He encourages neighbors to resolve view disputes by talking them out.

If they can’t agree, however, then the property owner with the trees wins, said Paul Roberts, planning director for the city of Everett.

"There is nothing within city codes that entitles somebody to visual access across another person’s property," Roberts said.

The Hartmans’ trees have two to three years to live, at most, says Larry Hartman. It’s a sad end for the firs, which have been part of the landscape for the 25 years he and his wife have lived in their home. It’s more frustrating because the couple have sacrificed many a Saturday to keeping that landscape looking nice.

"I’d like to see the trees saved, but if that isn’t the case, then I’d like to see the perpetrators caught and brought to justice," Hartman said.

The couple asks anyone with knowledge of the tree vandalism to call them or the Everett police tip line at 425-257-8450.

You can call Herald Writer Karl Schweizer at 425-339-3452

or send e-mail to schweizer@heraldnet.com.

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