The old cottonwood tree across from the Riverview Hotel has become the subject of much discussion in recent weeks by city leaders and citizens alike.

The tree, which is believed to be around 80 years old, is apparently dying, and the city plans to remove it for liability reasons.

Bellevue Tree Board members Warren Crouch, Don Cummings and Brian Steines personally inspected the tree numerous times, and also brought in Kevin Oetkin of Woodland Forestry LLC to get a second opinion on the matter.  

All agreed that it would be best to take down the large cottonwood to reduce potential hazards and allow for additional younger trees to be planted in its place.

When news of the pending fate of the tree was printed in the newspaper on Sept. 30, it caught the eye of Bellevue resident Jay Homan, who  penned a letter to the editor printed in mid-October, proposing the city save the old cottonwood and make it into a ‘snag tree.’

He said the project would involve removing the upper material of the existing tree, injecting it with a special chemical to kill the root system, applying tar to the cuts and then having a relief sculpture carved into the trunk by a champion chainsaw artist from Canada.

Homan also offered to pay for all the expenses involved.

“Bellevue is known as the town of bald eagles, and it was what drew us here almost 30 years ago, as well as what brought us back six years ago,” said Homan. “The town is blessed to have a tree of that imposing stature in the middle of downtown. It was our first exposure to roosting bald eagles as I’m sure it is for countless visitors to Bellevue.”

Homan’s proposal for the tree was discussed at last week’s Bellevue City Council meeting, and after going over the pros and cons in detail, the council agreed it was best to proceed with removing the old tree, and replacing it with a new tree.

John Hoff, who spoke on behalf of Jay and Diane Homan at last week’s council meeting, said the Homans are offering to pay for the cutback and wood carving of the tree.

“They are just trying to provide another solution to help keep the large tree that eagles perch on versus cutting it down,” said Hoff, who noted that the tree might last for several more decades.

Council members, however, said that the city would be liable for damages, as they are already aware the tree is a potential hazard and if it fell on something the city would be to blame.

In addition, tree board members say cottonwoods are a poor carving tree because they are a soft tree that hold moisture.

The old cottonwood tree is also located on a slope and in the downtown near businesses, sidewalks, benches, public parking lot and a state highway.

While city officials appreciated Homan’s vision and his generosity, they also felt that cutting back for a snag tree would still leave a large section of the tree, causing the safety hazard to remain.

They said that removing the tree now would allow for the replacement tree process to begin sooner.

“The tree sits on a slope and in a business location with roads, public parking, sidewalks and benches nearby. These snag trees should be in a wildlife area.  Leaving a large portion of the tree would still pose liability and safety,” said City Administrator Abbey Skrivseth. “There is also concern that kids will climb on the snag tree.  Carvings usually decay and rot overtime and form splinters.  

“Lastly, we are working very hard to beautify our town and the Riverview park.  We have been planting diverse trees that will show results in the upcoming years with the various leaves and colors.  I do not think a snag tree fits our plan to beautify our parks,” she added.

Cole Park Pool debate

Per a previously approved development agreement with the new Off Shore Resort, members of the Bellevue City Council Monday night approved a resolution establishing pool rates for 2022 for the citizens of Bellevue, as well as all who live within a 5-mile radius of town.

As has been previously reported, the city agreed to pay Off Shore Resort $30,000 annually so Off Shore could offer discounted pool rates  to local citizens.

Included in the resolution was an agreement that ‘the City Pool will hereby be closed until further notice.’ This was also previously reported on and agreed to by the council.

This didn’t sit well with members of the Friends of the Bellevue Pool Committee, who want the 1965 pool at Cole Park open next year.

Arguments and objections to the resolution and the previously agreed to development agreement were heard by the council, and the meeting got heated at various times throughout the evening.

In the end the council voted 3-1 to approve the pool rate resolution with Off Shore. Lyn Medinger voted no, while Tammy Michels and Tom and Tim Roth voted yes.

Councilman Jayson Heiar left the meeting early and did not vote.

Rates for the Bellevue city residents for swimming lessons at the Off Shore will be $35 (and $45 for non-residents); while the daily pool rate for Bellevue residents will be $6 per day (and $10 per day for non-residents).

An annual single pool pass for Bellevue residents will be $95 (and $125 for non-residents); while a family pass will cost $275 annually for Bellevue residents, (and $325 for non-residents).

For a complete readout of what was said at the Nov. 15 city council meeting please turn to the public notice section in this week's Bellevue Herald-Leader to read the detailed account provided by the City of Bellevue and published by the Bellevue Herald-Leader as provided by law.