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Why have the trees along Markham and War Memorial Golf Course been cut down? 

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A reader wonders, why have the trees along Markham and War Memorial Golf Course been cut down?

The Little Rock Parks and Recreation Department recently cut 33 hackberry trees along West Markham Street, from the War Memorial Golf Course clubhouse to Monroe Street, trees they plan to replace with 60 non-native Chinese pistaches.

Mark Webre, assistant director of the department, said he understands and shares the passion for native trees, and that the department considered planting redbuds. But members of the staff who attended an international arborist convention heard Dr. Kim Coder, a winner of the International Society of Arboriculture's Achievement Award, speak about the Chinese pistache as a tree that can withstand being planted next to a busy road generating toxic hydrocarbons.

Entergy had been trimming the hackberries to an ungainly shape to keep them off the power line. The city would have cut the hackberries down earlier, but it did not have the money to do so. The tree replacement was funded by midtown developers on University under a new Planning Department rule that allows developers who fail to meet landscape requirements on their property to fund landscaping on property within their section on a quad map.

Webre described Markham and the packed soil along the four-lane as a "harsh environment" for native trees. The drought-tolerant, long-lived pistache, however, can thrive there, and should not, Webre said, grow as high as the power lines. (Depending on climate, the tree grows to between 30 and 60 feet tall, according to online nurseries and garden sites.) The leaves of the pistache change to red and orange in the fall. The Heights promenade on Kavanaugh is also planted in pistaches. The pistache "attracts wildlife, birds and insects, too," Webre said.

Webre said some people who complained to the department suggested dogwood, which, as an understory tree, does not like full sunlight. The problem with redbud, he said, is that it "becomes unruly after a while" and is not as long-lived.

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