Downtown tree wears out its welcome

    For 13 years, a small tree on Central Avenue in downtown Medford has been the bane of Dan Ebert’s business.

    When Medford Urban Renewal Agency planted the tree and installed new sidewalks, it was part of an effort to improve the look of the downtown.

    But Ebert said the tree, with its 4-by-6-feet tree well, has led to flooding in the basement of Central Art Supply, a situation he has brought to the attention of city officials for years, even when they originally built the sidewalk in front of his store.

    Ebert finally got permission from Medford City Council last Thursday to remove the tree and fill the tree well with concrete.

    “This has been a long time coming,” Ebert said. “It’s been many years since I began dealing with this.”

    He said he will be taking care of all the expenses of removing the 25-foot-tall Japanese zelkova, digging out the tree well and then filling it with concrete. When mature, the trees can reach heights of 45 feet.

    Compared to similar trees up and down Central, the one in front of Ebert’s store is a runt. Other trees have much larger canopies and have grown much taller.

    Prior to installation of the sidewalk and tree well 13 years ago, Ebert said he told MURA officials to pay attention to the way water drained away from the building.

    Ebert said he had no water problems before the city installed pavers there. He said MURA attempted to address some of his initial concerns about the pavers, but the efforts didn’t work.

    During the first year after the tree was planted, Ebert said he noticed water in his basement every three days or so in the summer, finally figuring out that the irrigation system was the culprit.

    After the water line to the tree was capped off, Ebert watered the tree by hand.

    The final straw for Ebert came two years ago when the basement in Central Art Supply flooded after snow melted.

    “Two years ago, I just had it,” Ebert said. “It flooded other parts of the basement where I have customers.”

    In 2017, Ebert’s application to remove the tree was denied, and he appealed the decision. A public hearing was held April 20, 2017, but the matter was postponed until this year.

    Ebert, who said he likes having trees in the downtown, installed an awning over the sidewalk on both Central and Sixth streets to help keep water away from the foundation.

    Councilor Clay Bearnson asked Ebert last Thursday, “If the tree comes out and doesn’t solve the problem, will you pay to put it back?”

    Ebert responded “yes.”

    On a 5-2 vote, Bearnson and Councilor Kay Brooks were the “no” votes.

    The city will plant a replacement tree in the downtown in Vogel Plaza, about a block from Central Art Supply.

    Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or Follow him on

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