Wheeler Historic Farm is moving forward with plans to remove more than 120 trees from its property, which it says is for the greater good. But at least one nearby resident is not happy.

The trees are being taken down for various reasons, including flood control and invasive tree species. But county officials who manage the 75-acre working farm and public park say there are plans to plant even more trees than are being removed. The removal and planting project is called “Talking Trees.”

Kade Moncur, division director for Salt Lake County Flood Control, told KSL.com some of the trees are causing issues with maintenance and the structure of the dam in Cottonwood Creek. Moncur said the dam is needed to protect the farm and neighboring residences from getting flooded along Little Cottonwood Creek.

“We need to be able to inspect the dam (and) trees, (and) woody vegetation makes it really hard,” Moncur said. “Tree roots penetrating through the dam also cause potential piping for water to get into the embankment and cause problems.”

Liz Sollis, the associate division director of community engagement for Salt Lake County Parks and Recreation, compared the situation to a large tree growing near a house. The roots may end up causing damage to the foundation of the house, and therefore need to be removed in some way.

Jake Krong, who has lived near the farm for eight years, disagrees with the project, saying not only will there be significantly less shade, but more importantly, fewer homes for animals.

Krong said his family has seen at least three families of foxes and lots of different types of birds in those trees. “It doesn’t seem to me like any wildlife assessment was done (by the county),” Krong said.

Moncur said, ‘(In) identifying the trees that needed to be removed, we determined that wildlife would continue to reside in and benefit from the remaining ecosystem at the farm and at adjacent outdoor areas outside of the dam embankment.”

Tree removal is also taking place because many of the trees are dying or are already dead, said Chris Jones, the Salt Lake County mayor’s communications director. Jones also said some of the trees are an invasive species.

A pile of downed trees is pictured at Wheeler Farm in Murray on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2023. In preparation for emergency flood response at the farm and surrounding properties, Salt Lake County Flood Control and Parks and Recreation are taking proactive measures to protect persons and property. | Laura Seitz, Deseret News

“Our intention is to plant as many trees as we can on the farm while continuing to allow space for activities that regularly occur,” Sollis added.

Krong said planting more trees is great, but “one tree doesn’t always equal one tree, depending on where it is, how big it is, how old it is.”

He said the hardest thing is that he and other neighbors were not notified of the plan — they simply woke up on Tuesday and saw trees being taken down. “I have a 1-year-old son and he’s never going to see what this place was like, because even if they’re replanting trees, it’s a full generation to regrow them,” he said.

A statement from Salt Lake County says: “Salt Lake County Parks and Recreation worked with Utah State University’s extension program to create a conceptual tree-planting plan that details replacement tree species and planting locations in areas that do not compromise the dam. The proposed nodes will provide outdoor educational opportunities and shade for visitors.”

Sollis said the project is named “Talking Trees” because the county’s parks and recreation department wants to talk about it as much as it can to answer questions and clear up any misunderstandings. More about the project can be found on the Talking Trees page. Sollis said the county flood control website can also provide more information about protecting the dam.

Downed trees and debris are cleared up along Cottonwood Creek at Wheeler Farm in Murray on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2023. | Laura Seitz, Deseret News