BUNCOMBE COUNTY, N.C. (WSPA) – Officials in Buncombe County are looking for whoever stripped bark from tree trunks at Alexander River Park earlier this week. Other tree vandalisms have been reported since then, according to Buncombe County Recreation Services director Josh O’Conner.
“It’s basically killing the tree when they cut into the bark like this,” said Dawn Chavez, who is the executive director of environmental non-profit Greenworks in Asheville.
Bark from tulip poplar trees, like the one vandalized, is in demand for siding for high end homes.
The tree is part of Alexander River Park, which sits on the French Broad River.
According to O’Conner, parks along the river, and the trees along the river, provide a buffer during flooding.
“They’re meant to be recreational areas and open space when they’re dried out, but they’re also meant to provide areas for the river to swell and provide some protection for homes and other things along the river,” O’Conner.
Trees’ roots also help keep the path along the river intact during flooding. Now taxpayers are going to have to pay about $1,000 for the dying tree to be removed, according to O’Conner.
“There’s actually a market for poplar bark,” O’Conner said. “Just usually it’s harvested in a more sustainable manner than that.”
He said he hasn’t heard of any suspects yet, but since the news broke that the tree had been vandalized, they’ve received reports of other tulip poplars also being hit.
If you know anything about what happened, you are asked to the call Buncombe County Crime Stoppers at (828) 255-5050.