The trees are to stay in their place. This is what the Regional Directorate for Environmental Protection in Poznan decided. At issue are 27 Turkish hazel trees, which the city wanted to remove as part of the reconstruction of the main downtown streets. The decision of the RDOŚ is a success for social activists and 12,000 Poznań residents who signed a petition against the cutting.
"Negative agreement" for the cutting and replanting of 27 Turkish hazel trees in the center of Poznań has just been issued by the Regional Directorate for Environmental Protection in Poznań. A row of hazel trees on 27 Grudnia Street has existed for 40 years between Gwarna and Ratajczaka streets. However, it was to be replaced by a row of new plane trees - one of two new rows planned along the southern frontage (on the northern side, there are already some fine perennial plane trees growing).
27 Grudnia Street in Poznań, reconstruction - view of the construction site in the western direction; on the left - Turkish hazel trees, on the right - plane trees
photo: Jakub Głaz
The removal of hazel trees is envisaged in the street reconstruction plans by architects from Studio ADS. They are a refinement of the overall concept for the transformation of downtown's main streets, which was selected in a competition in 2015 and is currently being implemented under the name Project Center. The conceptual work included two rows of trees from the very beginning, but there was no indication of any intention to remove existing specimens.
Jaskowiak went into denial
Since July of this year, community activists fromthe Freedom Square Association supported by the Zazieleń Poznań Coalition have been protestingagainst the removal of the hazel trees. Contrary to the position of the city authorities and the designer, they noticed that the design of the new underground installations and road layout did not interfere with the trees, which have been growing for decades. Together with specialists, they also conducted an inventory of the condition of the trees, which showed that they are not in bad shape. Therefore, there is no need to replace them with new ones - planted, by the way, at much greater intervals.
The petition in defense of the trees was signed by some 12,000 Poznań residents mobilized by the Association. The authorities, however, were adamant, reiterating that the hazel trees were in bad shape, but still softened their stance somewhat, deciding no longer to cut them down, but to replant about half of the hazel trees in city squares. Mayor Jacek Jaskowiak treated the public's demands obsequiously, citing an expert report by a specialist hired by the city - Krakow dendrologist Dr. Wojciech Bobek. We described the matter in detail here and here.
So the city pushed forward, and in November decided to cut down and replant. The decision on the matter was sent by the city's Department of Landscaping and Environmental Protection to the RDEP, hoping for no complications. Everything was done in a big hurry, because the street's reconstruction has to be completed by the end of next year, so that the city doesn't lose the EU grant. However, the opposite happened. In its decision, the RDOŚ sided with the residents, recognizing that the planned work can be carried out without removing these trees.
27 Grudnia Street in Poznań, reconstruction, protection of Turkish hazel trees on the section between Kantaka and Ratajczaka streets
Photo: Jakub Głaz
According to yesterday's Gazeta Wyborcza, Poznan City Hall is considering further steps, reporting that "reconciliation studies are being conducted" (one can appeal to the General Directorate of Environmental Protection, which, however, will prolong the procedure greatly). The Freedom Square Association, meanwhile, offers its opinion on the expected actions of the magistrate. The Facebook post reads, among other things.
This is the last moment both to abandon the cutting of trees on December 27 Street and to make quick design changes to meet key deadlines. Further prolongation of procedures by the City Hall could lead to the loss of the EU grant. Here there is no more time for some appeals against the decision of the RDOŚ, here it is necessary to accept the fact that someone else is right and adjust the project accordingly! [...] The city authorities should stop in their stubbornness and smoothly adjust the project to leave the trees. We know that this is possible," he said.
The public also details that the mentioned changes in the project include the location of street lamps. All the more reason, then, for no time to appeal the decision of the RDOŚ. Regardless of the activities on the south side, it is also important that the plane trees on the other side of the street are not affected during the works. Their protection seems, so far, to have been quite haphazard.
27 Grudnia Street in Poznań, reconstruction, selective protection of plane trees, instead of guards some of the trees are decorated with "patriotic" ribbons (probably for the anniversary of the Wielkopolska Uprising; next to them there are other decorations: flags, emblems)
photo: Jakub Glaz
if not trees, then cobblestones
So the fight over the hazel trees is not over yet , although there are many indications that public resistance will save the trees. Meanwhile, another dispute seems to be starting within the same development (Project Center). After the plans to cut down the hazel trees, residents were surprised by a section of the pavement being laid in Marcinkowskiego Avenue - made of uneven, historic cobblestones (new, smooth, cut pavement is being laid next to them).
27 Grudnia Street in Poznań, reconstruction - new pavement in Aleje Marcinkowskiego, incomprehensible change of pavement - from even, to "historical" and uncomfortable
photo: Jakub Głaz
Such a solution is surprising in a city that officially prioritizes pedestrian and bicycle facilities and greater comfort in the center. To make matters worse, the uneven old pavement is also to be laid in the former Gwarny Square, i.e. at the foot of the iconic Okrąglak (once a department store, now an office building, designed by Marek Leykam 1949-55). This decision is already completely bizarre. First, the square was finally supposed to become not just a streetcar turnout, but a friendly space for pedestrians to cross in all directions. Secondly, placing an unpolished "historic" cube in the vicinity of Okrąglak and two other modernist buildings has no logical justification.