Utility board: Haabersti willow would dry up even if intersection rerouted ({{commentsTotal}})

Since Saturday morning, demonstrators have camped out and spent time defending the 100-year-old white willow from being cut down.
Since Saturday morning, demonstrators have camped out and spent time defending the 100-year-old white willow from being cut down. Source: (Rene Suurkaev/ERR)

Even if the route of the Haabersti, Tallinn, intersection to be reconstructed were to be changed to accommodate for a large white willow in the way, the willow would likely dry up within a couple of years, said Tallinn Utility Board deputy director Reio Vesiallik.

Activists from the civic organization Eesti Metsa Abiks ("Helping Estonia's Forests") protecting a large white willow in the Haabersti District of Tallinn have been tenting and spending time by the tree since Saturday morning, demonstrating against its being cut down in order to make way for the intersection to be recontructed there.

Police came to the scene on Saturday, but found no reason to drive the demonstrators away as they remained peaceful.

Alternative fates to be suggested include changing the route of the intersection to spare the tree and even relocating the tree itself. Vesiallik told ERR, however, that the utility board is not weighing changing the route of the road project.

"The project has received all necessary permits and harmonizations and construction must be according to the proect," he claimed.

Vesiallik noted that in the course of the project being drawn up, the willow was dated and its condition assesed. Given its location, he noted, there was no other possible solution but to take the tree down. As the logging permit was issued by Tallinn's Environment Board, the utility board had no reason to doubt their assessment.

"Our appraisal says that this tree is approximately one hundred years old," said the utility board official. "We cannot confirm the exact age until its rings can be counter, but an expert who appraised the tree in the course of planning believes that it is approximately one hundred years old."

He added that the average lifespan of white willows is around a century, but only if their living conditions remain unchanged.

"If construction work even just goes by there today, it'll disrupt the water regime, which means that this tree will be dead in two years," Vesiallik asserted.

Official: Tree not mentioned when public had chance to weigh in

Those defending the preservation of the willow have claimed that the detailed plan for the area has been kept secret. Vesiallik rejected this claim, however, stating that this claim about a detailed plan was incomprehensible as this was a construction project.

"A public debate regarding the project took place in April 2016, where everyone interested in the matter first of all had the opportunity to take part in its disclosure and second of all submit their own suggestions," the official recalled. "[Suggestions] were made and they were taken into account as well. Nobody at the time drew attention to the fact that anything in particular should be done about this tree."

Vesiallik confirmed that the project would be completed as planned, based on secured building and logging permits.

The intersection of Paldiski Highway, Ehitajate Road, Haabersti Street and Rannamõisa Road in Tallinn's Haabersti District is statistically the most accident-prone spot in Estonia. The white willow in question is slated to be taken down in the course of the intersection's reconstruction.

Editor: Aili Vahtla

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