Bozeman forestry crews are cutting down 26 large trees city staff called a hazard that have long shadowed a well-used street.

Workers began removing the trees along the north side of West College Street on Tuesday between South Wilson Avenue and 19th Avenue.

Forestry Division Manager Alex Nordquest said those trees — 24 of which were were green ash — encroached on power lines and needed routine maintenance and trimming to avoid safety issues.

“That repeated maintenance over time warps the trees’ natural form, leads to decay and instability,” Nordquest said. “The big thing here is we have a public safety hazard with those trees in proximity to those overhead lines.”

He said the city plans to replant at least 20 trees along the street in the spring that won’t grow tall enough to cross utility lines. That means species of trees with a mature height of less than 30 feet that are often slow to grow, according to the city’s street tree guide.

How many trees get planted will depend on the layout of curbs, driveways and underground street utilities.

Nordquest said the city usually has to figure out what to do with roughly 20 trees rubbing against power lines a year. He said the West College Street project is a bit larger than usual and more visible on the well-used route.

“Every boulevard and city park tree is the forestry division’s responsibility. We’re constantly evaluating mature trees, we’re planting new trees and were doing all the maintenance work in the middle,” he said. “Each year we plant more than we remove.”

Through 2019, the city of Bozeman planted 285 trees — a bit beyond the city’s typical 200 trees planted a year.

As far as the bare patches now on the north side of West College, Nordquest said the city will plant roughly 11 varieties of trees, including hawthorns, cherries and some maples.

“Having diversity makes us more resilient for any one threat, if it’s a power line, if it’s disease, insects or drought or frost,” he said.

The city will use $5,000 from NorthWestern Energy to buy the new trees in the spring.

Jo Dee Black, a spokeswoman with NorthWestern, said the company works with forestry divisions in towns across the state to plant trees where others had been removed because of utility concerns.

She said the state’s early winter storms were a reminder that work is important. Snow-heavy branches fell on lines that risked power outages and could have put people in danger, she said.

“Urban forestry adds so much to our community and it’s so important,” Black said. “That’s why we work so closely with the city forestry division.”

Katheryn Houghton can be reached at khoughton@dailychronicle.com or at 582-2628.

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