Controversy surrounds planned removal of cherry trees near Pike Place Market entrance

SEATTLE — The flowering cherry trees leading to the entrance to Pike Place Market could soon be gone for good.

The trees are slated for mass removal by Tuesday, Mar. 7, due to work on Seattle’s project connecting downtown to the waterfront.

A new pedestrian and bike path entrance with hybrid elms is set to replace the cherry trees, which are over 40 years old.

Jean Bateman with Save the Market Entrance has been lobbying to save the trees and several other historic elements in and around the market. She says the age and lifespan concerns for the trees are not enough reasons to take them down.

On Monday morning, she made her point by hanging heart signs on the trees to profess her love and opposition to the removal.

“We’re standing on really hallowed ground here; cherry trees is what we would like to see,” said Bateman.

She admitted that the solution she would like to see is replacing the cherry trees with more cherry trees but said a simpler solution would be to let the current trees stay.

Willie Wayman, who works near Pike Place Market, says he believes removing the trees will destroy the feeling and beauty of the half block that leads to Pike Place Market.

“These are the prettiest things on Pike Street!” exclaimed Wayman. “I don’t see the logic in taking away something that people like so much.”

In a statement shared with KIRO 7, a spokesperson with Waterfront Seattle said, “We plan to complete the removal of the trees as a part of upcoming construction on this block so that we can plant new healthy trees while we are rebuilding the sidewalk ... We are planting new street trees (hybrid elms) on that block, as they have been developed by the horticulture and nursery industry specifically to meet street tree standards in terms of form, foliage density, and growth rate.”

Some people advocating for preserving the area’s trees argue that they have a deeper meaning that should save them from the axe.

“The Cherry trees in Washington DC, if you threatened to cut them down, you’d have a national mob on your hands,” said Bob Braun.

Braun insisted that the city should recognize the trees’ connection to the Japanese community, adding that while he could not definitively say whether the trees were truly from Japan, they are a symbol that he believes should be left alone.

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