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Protester Arrested, Mayor Gorton "Very Disappointed" With KU Tree Cutting

One woman was arrested at a protest on Lansdowne Drive Monday morning, as Kentucky Utilities began cutting down trees there. Arlo Barnette reports.

News outlets report dozens of local residents gathered around 9:00 a.m. to protest KU removing trees from Lansdowne Drive’s center median. The utility has decided to continue its practice of clear-cutting trees near power lines despite a public outcry and requests from city leaders to return to a less destructive method, like trimming.

Hours into the protest, police instructed protesters to move from underneath the trees. 64-year-old Laura Ann Zimmerman remained to protect a flowering crab apple tree and was arrested on a trespassing charge. Zimmerman was applauded by onlookers, but the tree and others near it were felled by KU workers.

A protester who was not identified spoke to LEX-18.

"We will stand here and cry as--I can't even talk about it. I just can't even talk about it because these trees are absolutely gorgeous and they don't pose a threat. And we will stand here and we will watch them take these trees down. They will take them down. Why? Because they can."

Mayor Linda Gorton released a statement on Monday:

“I am very disappointed by the actions KU has taken today in cutting down trees that in no way threaten transmission lines. This does not reflect the compromise I requested that trees be trimmed rather than cut down, or the 30-day moratorium I requested. It also directly contradicts the resolution Council passed on Nov. 18. Trees are important to our city. Lexington has been a Tree City USA for 33 years. Trees help control stormwater, improve air quality, provide shade and enhance our neighborhoods. I have been working with KU for months to try to find a better way to preserve our tree canopy, while protecting our electrical infrastructure. KU’s response today is to continue cutting down trees. While the city does not have the authority to stop KU, it’s unfortunate that KU is not listening to the citizens it serves. The City is forced to consider other options, including filing a formal complaint with the Kentucky Public Service Commission, which oversees utilities.”

Kentucky Utilities released this statement in response:

“Our hope is that a letter we sent to Mayor Gorton last Tuesday explains the need for our work. That letter indicated we would resume our vegetation management program on Nov. 29, however, we would not agree to a 30-day moratorium. We are on hold in the Lakes Edge and Lakeview Estates area while we conduct more assessments. It’s also important to note that we have worked and continue to work with city officials on re-planting plans for the medians. For example, crews are scheduled to be re-planting compatible species next week in the area where we were today.”

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