FAQs for Conway Trees

This FAQ is generated from community input regarding the welfare of the trees along an area called the Community Ditch near Conway Avenue and Lucerne Way and the preservation of this specific area’s tree canopy. 

Anyone with questions should contact the City’s Community Engagement Office at clcengage@las-cruces.org or call 575-541-2100.

The FAQs do not represent all questions asked by the public. As we obtain responses to those questions and others that members of the public might submit over time, the City will update that information to the FAQs.

What is happening, why is it happening and where is it happening?

What: The City will be removing wild trees along an irrigation ditch. The irrigation ditch is a shared maintenance responsibility between the City of Las Cruces (banks and shoulders of the ditch), and the owners of the community ditch (internal ditch structure). 

Why: Trees have been identified as a public safety hazard on the City’s right-of-way (ROW) of the ditch and must be removed. Additionally, many little trees have voluntarily grown in the area in a haphazard manner. Some of the trees are considered noxious weeds by the New Mexico Department of Agriculture, and some tree species are problematic due to changing natural environmental conditions.

Where: The trees are located in an area that is known as the Community Ditch, which is an irrigation ditch in the Mesilla Park neighborhood, specifically in the vicinity of Conway Avenue and Lucerne Way.

A great deal of discussion at the October 13, 202 public meeting was devoted to “Phase 1” of this project.  Are additional phases planned or under consideration? If so, what do they entail (i.e., how many more trees will be removed, when, why, etc.)?

Other phases are being considered but have not yet been determined at this time.  

Based on additional community input, other phases may include but are not limited to the following: 

A) Conway Avenue added to the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) for improvements within the City's ROW that may include new asphalt, drainage system, sidewalks, curb and gutter, multi-use path, bike lanes, and utility replacements for a complete street design as listed in the Elevate Las Cruces Comprehensive Plan.  

B) If Conway Avenue is not listed in the CIP, look at partial improvements within the City ROW with sidewalk, curb and gutter, and bike lanes.  

C) Partner with a community group through a Memorandum of Agreement / Understanding (MOA or MOU) for maintenance of this portion of City ROW.

The number of trees to be removed, when, and why will be dependent on the input for future phases, suggestions based on classification of being a tree or weed, and available funding.

The discussion regarding Phase 1 seemed to indicate it was not set in stone and may be subject to revision, delay or cancellation.  Is this accurate, and if it is, what would cause it to be delayed, revised or cancelled?

This is not accurate. The 15-20 trees identified as being a risk must be removed. A delay could possibly occur pending the contractor’s schedule to remove the trees identified as a public safety hazard, or if a significant weather event occurred to delay removal. 

How was the determination made to declare a tree a "safety hazard" and in need of removal?

A public safety hazard means that the tree or parts of a tree could collapse at any time. This can be determined by an arborist who knows about tree health conditions, and stages of decay and death in trees. When decay or death affect a tree, then the City must heed due diligence to mitigate the risk to the public.

When will the trees be removed?

Once we have reached consensus and available funding.

How many of the 15-20 trees that are to be removed in Phase 1 still alive? 

11 trees are still alive but of those three are mostly dead. 

Why do you say between 15 and 20 trees? Don’t you know exactly how many trees need to be removed?

There are 16 trees that need to be removed in Phase 1.

 Are the trees currently marked with paint scheduled for removal or are they the ones that will remain?

These are the trees that are to remain. 

What do the ribbons signify?

The ribbons were another method to identify the trees that were marked with paint.

When was the last time any maintenance or trimming was performed on these trees?

Public Works does not have that information.

Rather than remove live trees, why not trim them or treat them if they are sick?  

The American Elms are not treatable as they are so badly decayed most are hollow. Trees with severe lean cannot be pruned to correct the lean.   

The Mulberry tree at the west end of the site may be able to be pruned to reduce the hazard it poses to the street and condominium, but the decay is not treatable. 

Why can't the leaning trees be braced or supported to remediate the danger of them falling onto Conway? 

Braces would create a traffic hazard and is not a viable option. 

What discussion has been had with the county regarding the trees under their jurisdiction on Conway and what are their plans to address the identified problems with the trees? 

Public Works has not reached out to the County as we are assessing the trees within City ROW only.

What is the total number of trees (dead, decaying and alive) that are identified for removal in any and all phases of this project? 

The total number of trees inventoried was 166 including suckers and seedlings.  Sixteen trees have been identified for removal because of the hazard that they present.  It has been suggested that Siberian Elms and Black Locust could also be removed because of the weedy nature of the trees

Was the decision to remove the Siberian Elms made only because New Mexico deems them to be "noxious weeds"?  

Yes. Please refer to these links.

https://www.nmda.nmsu.edu/nmda-homepage/divisions/apr/noxious-weed-information/

https://www.nmda.nmsu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Weed-List-memo-and-weed-list-2020.pdf

Removal of vermin (rats). How will the City get rid of the rats that live in the trees? And if they live in the trees that are removed, won’t they just go to other trees or my walls or yard?

The City does not remove vermin from public rights-of-ways. Property owners need to remove vermin from their own properties. 

Preservation of wildlife: Will the city preserve any wild bees that live in the trees that are being removed? What about wild birds that are living/roosting/nesting in the trees? Don’t you need to preserve wildlife habitat?

If trees have nesting birds the trees will be removed after nesting.  If trees are being used for roosting it is recommended that they be removed in October and November so that any roosting birds can find another roost before winter.

What prompted the City’s plans to remove the trees? If there was a request, did it reflect a consensus of affected individuals?

Discussion to remove certain trees is an operational function of the City of Las Cruces. The determination to remove some of the trees came about when some limbs had fallen, damaging walls and vehicles. 

When an issue is brought to the City’s attention, an assessment begins to the extent of the problem. Once the problem is determined, then action occurs. Since the trees are on City right of way, the issue is an operational matter for the City to address, which may or may not involve the requirement of public input, especially if public safety is a factor.

Is the tree canopy for neighborhood walkers a criterion when selecting trees for removal?

It depends. Public safety supersedes other considerations.

Is stump removal part of the planned process?

Yes, only if the stump removal equipment can safely be operated.  The site conditions (the sloping ditch bank) my not allow for equipment to be safely operated and in that case the stumps would remain.

Will the soil be repaired where the trees were removed?

Yes, to the extent that there are no walking hazards and the integrity of the ditch is preserved.

Will the removed trees be replaced?

Consideration to replace the removed trees must be done in context of future planning for the area. It is a waste of resources to immediately replace any of the removed trees that might have to also be removed later if plans develop that impact that area. 

Is it necessary to remove all designated trees at the same time or could a few be removed each year and replaced with trees that are appropriate for the climate and for the location near the power line. That way would maintain some older tree canopy while new canopy develops.

Only hazardous trees should be removed in a timely manner.  Removal of other trees could be phased.

Can the power lines be extended above the trees or buried to avoid the trees? Who would be responsible for this and who would pay the cost?

The extension or burial of these power lines is a decision that would need to be addressed by the utility owner.  The cost would be borne by the utility owner.

The City should discuss the utility easement granted to El Paso Electric and for the ditch. What changes or requirements can the City make to these grants?

It depends on how and when the easements were established.

See response for comments #1 and #2 together.

1). The City should recognize that the neighborhood concerned is the area bounded by University Avenue to the North, South Main Street to the East, Union Avenue to the South, and MacDowell Road to the West. This includes citizens both those within the City limits and those residing in the County (Mesilla or Mesilla Park). Furthermore, people outside these bounds also come to this area to recreate. For example, residents of the nearby Camino Castillo area, the condos at the intersection of University and Avenida de Mesilla, and from much further away. Some drive cars to reach the area and park along the verges of Conway for the pleasure of walking along the roads.

2). The people would like to have the City develop a landscaping plan for maintaining the park-like ambience along Conway Avenue.

Additional phases for area planning: As mentioned at the public meeting on October 13, 2020, an organized process is being developed, that is aligned with the City’s Comprehensive Plan and other requirements for future planning in the Conway Avenue/Mesilla Park area, to discuss the neighborhood potential for capital improvement projects. 

Planning for such activity must start early to determine neighborhood desires from residents and future funding sources. Your District 2 Councilor is interested in starting a work group in your neighborhood to get this process underway.  

Is Albuquerque cutting down the trees with no plan to replant? Or, are they trimming dangerous limbs/branches and/or replanting?

Every community is unique with regard to tree management. The City of Las Cruces, while it investigates what other municipalities may do, attempts to adhere to best practices and public safety considerations for the specific area of Las Cruces. 

Note: If your question is not reflected in these FAQs, please contact clcengage@las-cruces.org.

This version is current as of November 1, 2020.

Updated versions will be available on the City Council District 2 web page. Content will be updated periodically.