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Rocky Mountain News (CO) – Wednesday, June 30, 2004
Author/Byline: Clayton Woullard , Rocky Mountain News
Edition: Final
Section: City Desk/Local
Page: 23A
Charles Bynum just spent $30,000 on an investment that might never pay dividends.

Bynum, owner of the Santa Fe Motel in Manitou Springs, recently had a picnic area constructed outside his business, hoping to attract families to his motel.

The area was built with a thick wall of tall elm trees as a backdrop. Now those trees are gone.

“It really does change the feel of the area,” Bynum said.

The felling of the trees remains a mystery.

The trees, which span a quarter- mile between the motel and U.S. 24, were cut down one night in January, leaving only 3-foot-tall stumps and waist-high debris, he said.

Samuel Pisciotta, roadside advertising manager for southeast Colorado for the Colorado Department of Transportation, said whoever cut down the trees, which are in the right of way of the highway, violated state policy. No one was given permission to cut them down, he said, and CDOT has asked the state Attorney General’s office to investigate.

Bynum said he thinks they were cut down to make room for a billboard that was being blocked by the trees. The billboard, which belongs to Lamar Outdoor Advertising, is now in clear view to drivers coming east down the highway.

The trees were about 25 to 30 feet tall and had to be trimmed by the local electric company because they were encroaching on the power lines. Bynum said he thought the power company had also cut down the trees, but he said he discovered that Lamar had hired Vedanta Tree Services of Colorado Springs to fell the trees.

Pisciotta estimated that about 1,000 trees were cut down, most of them 4-inch-wide elm trees.

Hal Ward, a spokesperson for Lamar, said he could not comment and could not confirm or refute Bynum’s claims.

“We’re working with the Colorado Department of Transportation to resolve this issue,” he said.

Bynum said he talked to a man at Vedanta who refused to give his name, and that the man told him the company had been hired to do the tree cutting.

Bynum also said Vedanta had promised to clean up the debris on his property about a month ago but never showed up.

Vedanta did not return calls seeking comment Tuesday.

Pisciotta said while penalties for those responsible for cutting the trees down would have to be determined in the investigation process, he personally finds it appalling.

“I’ve never seen something so blatantly disrespectful toward the public interest,” he said. “It’s just unbelievable how somebody could think they could do that.”


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