Washington, Missouri man could face charges for cutting down trees along nature path

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WASHINGTON, Mo. – Approximately 150 trees on public property were cut down along the Missouri River and people are upset. Police in Washington, Missouri plan to charge a local man.

There’s a paved path in Washington that takes folks along the river and through the woods. Now one spot on that nature walk has been blighted.

“Cutting down 150 trees in a public area; that’s seriously wrong,” said resident David Sutherland. “They (trees) bring oxygen and beauty and he didn’t do any good for any of that.”

Police said a man in his 50s took a chainsaw to many of the trees living on protected wetlands.

“I love nature and I hated to see the trees go down,” resident Ina Holland said.

Investigators said the man told them why he did it.

“A lot of the trees had overgrowth, vines, and things like that. He felt a lot of those trees were going to die anyway, so he went through there and cleared them out,” Washington Police Detective Sgt. Steve Sitzes said.

The trees were not on his property. Since 2007, residents have had to ask for permission to have a tree removed from public property located between their property and the river. If the city agreed, the homeowner would paid for the work.

Detectives said the suspect said he didn’t know the rules.

“You can’t go down there and simply cut down the trees,” Sitzes said.

Police insisted the man never got permission. Not only could he face charges, the man could wind up owing a lot of agencies a lot of money. An arborist for the city of Washington has estimated the towns losses at $66,000.

Railroad property may have been damaged.

“The Army Corps of Engineers is also involved, MoDOT is involved because the bridge is in that area, Fish and Wildlife. There’s a lot of different federal agencies involved,” Sitzes said.

FOX 2 attempted to get a comment from the man but not we were not able.

Residents think the man should be charged.

“I think whoever did the cutting should be punished, yes,” said Leon Whitworth.

Police plan to charge the man with a number of crimes, including felony property damage and trespassing as early as the end of this week.

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