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Bainbridge police investigate attempts to kill off trees at Battle Point Park

Battle Point Park is known for its beauty and as a great place for islanders to gather. Joggers love its trails. Athletes enjoy its courts and children take pleasure in its playground.

The island's love of the area has some wondering: Who is trying to kill the trees in Battle Point Park?

On Tuesday, a park employee noticed something shining around the base of a young evergreen tree north of the soccer fields. On a closer look, the worker discovered the tree had a copper wire tightly wrapped around the base of its trunk.

He then found that all of the approximately 50 young trees north of the soccer fields were wrapped with copper wires, as well as a few sequoia trees near the park's pond.

"It's incredibly upsetting," said Terry Lande, executive director of the Bainbridge Island Metro Park & Recreation District.

"It was really meticulously done, it wasn't an accident," he said.

"It's purposeful, they knew what they were doing," added Park Manager Dan Hamlin. "The outcome was meant to kill those trees."

Wrapping wire around the base of a tree is known a "girdling." The practice is meant to slowly kill a tree by cutting off its supply of nutrients.

"The tree just slowly dies," Lande said. "You basically strangle the tree, and it just dies."

The process can take up to a year before its effects are noticed.

"It's so purposeful and patient, because it doesn't happen right away, and by he time you notice it they are long gone," Hamlin said.

The park district knows of the effects of girdling too well; this is not the first time this has happened at Battle Point Park.

"This is the second time we've found it. This time we were able to save the trees, but last time they killed them," Hamlin said.

Parks workers found 24 trees in January that had been wrapped with wire for a long period of time and were dying.

Park employees were unable to save the trees in January — the damage was too severe.

Luckily, this time park employees were able to notice the wires before the damage was done, and the trees were saved.

The early discovery helped.

"The first time they did it, they covered it up with bark," Hamlin said. "The reason we discovered them was because the trees were declining and it was too late when we took off the wires."

"This time they weren't as careful," he said. "We just happened to be out there in the morning and found one tree with a wire and then we checked the rest."

What has park officials so perplexed is the apparent randomness of the act. They have not received any threats toward the park, and aside from a handful of residents, years ago, expressing that they did not want the park changed in any way, there have been no complaints.

Both Lande and Hamlin could not think of anyone with an ax to grind with the park or the park district.

What they do know is that whoever attempted to strangle the trees knew what they were doing and put forth a significant effort to kill the trees.

"They were wrapped six to seven times to make sure they were tight," Hamlin said. "They wrapped them around the trees and twisted them really tight."

The incident has been reported to Bainbridge Island Police.

Hamlin said that the time it would take to wrap all the trees would take considerable time and effort. He hopes someone saw something and can come forward to provide any information.

"If anybody sees anything like that, report it," Hamlin said. "If you see someone who doesn't look like a park employee, report it and give a good description of who you saw."

Though Lande thinks that whoever is targeting the trees is most likely operating under the cover of night, since so far, no one has said they have seen anything.

Hamlin agrees that the night may be the time they are girdling the trees.

"They were either out there after dark or somebody saw them," Hamlin said. "There is no way to do all those trees and not have somebody notice what you're doing."

All the trees are around 4 to 5 years old. They were rescued from roadside projects by the state Department of Transportation.

 

 

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