Tree Planted As A Memorial Cut Down By State

A taxpayer says the state cut too far and he's not talking about money, but a tree that had special meaning to his family.

Driving home from work, Scott Riha noticed something special was missing just before his driveway near Louisville, Nebraska. “Come over top of the hill and where a tree used to stand there's nothing there.”

For a dozen years, an ash tree stood for more than just shade. “A symbol to my wife for a nephew, who passed away several years ago.”

A week ago Friday without notice, the tree was cut down. The Rihas estimate their sentimental ash tree stood 20-feet tall, but what was left was wood mulch scattered in a ditch. A nearby crew clearing branches from power lines said they didn't cut down the tree, so Scott tried to find out who did. “You see anybody last Friday cutting trees?”

Fact Finders found that along Highway 66, a roads department crew cut many trees on state right-of-way that stood within 30 feet of the edge. “Twenty-five feet to trunk of the tree.”

Since the tree had been growing on public property, the district engineer said the tree cutting was for driver safety. “I'd rather tell a neighbor why we cut down a tree in state right-of-way instead of the parents of a young driver killed why we didn't."

Scott understands safety, but not cutting lines of communications. “Just be neighborly about it. Hey, I'm going to be close to your property, there's a tree possibly in the way, just let me know.”

The tree dedicated to a lost loved one is gone, but the Rihas may plant another after the line between their land and the states is better defined.

The district engineer said crews don't have the time to notify all residents about tree cutting on a state right-of-way. He said budget cuts allowed an overgrowth that is now being cleared away.

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