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Wednesday, August 13, 2008 - Page updated at 12:21 PM

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Group sues to keep trees from being cut down near Ingraham High School

A group of neighbors of Seattle's Ingraham High School has filed a lawsuit in a last-ditch effort to stop the cutting of some 100 trees on the school grounds later this week.

Seattle Times staff reporter

A group of neighbors of Ingraham High School has filed a lawsuit in King County Superior Court in a last-ditch effort to stop the cutting of some 100 trees on the school grounds later this week.

Although Seattle School Board members were due to meet behind closed doors Tuesday evening to discuss "litigation issues," it wasn't clear whether the session might lead to any change in the district's plans to cut the trees Friday and Saturday.

"We at the school district are focused on providing our students with new classrooms and improved facilities," said Seattle Public Schools spokesman David Tucker, noting that a hearing examiner has already upheld the project.

A hearing in the lawsuit filed by a group calling itself "Save the Trees" has been set for Sept. 2, but Steve Zemke, a spokesman for the plaintiffs, will ask for a restraining order this week unless the school district changes its plans. "We want to allow them the opportunity to back down," he said.

Before Tuesday night's meeting, Tucker said no formal action could be taken at the executive session, and he had no indication the board would change its decision to remove the trees as part of a renovation and expansion of the aging school, built in 1959.

The school district plans to cut down nearly 70 trees, many decades-old evergreens, from a stand of 133. The district also plans to cut down 30 more trees deemed diseased. It intends to remove portable classrooms and build an addition to the school as part of a $24 million project authorized by voters.

Despite objections to the tree-cutting from some neighbors and Mayor Greg Nickels, Tucker said extensive public input and comment went into the planning, and that planners selected "a design that has the least environmental impact on that campus."

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit say the grove of mature trees provides a needed green space, a habitat for birds and a buffer between the school and the neighborhood.

Jack Broom: 206-464-2222 or jbroom@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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