Status: 25.09.2023, 17:10 p.m.
By: Andreas Baar
Bad location: The chestnuts don't like it on the Penzberg town square. © Andreas Baar
Penzberg - The city of Penzberg is tackling a problem child: The malade tree population on the town square is being whipped into shape. But it is a compromise solution.
The problem has been discussed in Penzberg since 2016: What can the city do in terms of tree restoration on the town square? 15 red-flowered chestnuts had been planted on the newly designed area, which opened in 2013. In October last year, the city's tree expert Anita Suttner was commissioned by the building committee to develop concepts. Suttner now put three variants on the table in committee.
Sad sight: Actually, the trees on the town square should have grown further. © Andreas Baar
Suttner did not mince words about the urgency of a rescue operation: "The trees hardly stand a chance," she said, referring to their meager growth. Actually, the chestnuts should be 18 to 20 meters high. But the trees would suffer from an "insane drought stress". Heat, little shade, concrete and the compacted tree slices, which hardly let any water into the ground, are "very unfavorable".
An all-in-one solution would be expensive
Solution variant one would mean soil replacement, plastic honeycomb grids around the trunks filled with a special lava substrate and, above all, new plantings. Suttner proposed a mixture of Turkish oaks and black pines as a replacement – all heat-tolerant, the chestnuts could be relocated to the mountain dump. For the variant, however, the municipality would have to dig deep into its pockets: Suttner calculates with around 220,000 euros net in costs – without the chestnut move still with about 146,000 euros net.
Option B would be: Leave the existing trees, but optimize their location with a new substrate filling and carry out tree renovations. Costs: around 41,400 euros net. Variant C would be the simplest and cheapest at around 13,200 euros net: just peel off the compacted top layer around the trees, drill holes in the soil and fill them with slow-release fertilizer.
Given the cost, the complete package quickly didn't matter to most city councils. Variant B, also favored by tree expert Suttner ("I'm sorry about the money, the trees are not old yet"), was well received. The urban expert also made it clear that variants B and C would not guarantee that the malice trees would recover. However, one is flexible for a later exchange, Suttner emphasized.
Maria Probst was the only one in the building committee (the courage?) to take the opportunity to address the core of the matter: Penzberg's politicians must finally discuss the town square and its future. And honestly. Because the area is about much more than just a few chestnuts that steadfastly refuse to grow.
Even if it hurts: Penzberg's central center, intended as a venue and meeting place, is no longer so. The "ice fairy tale" has to move to the Berghalde due to protests by residents and excessive noise levels, cultural events and concerts in the late evening are hard to imagine. The stony desert without shady trees is not very inviting. Wooden benches with flowers don't help – although the idea is charming. And once a week a market is also a bit little for a vibrant city life in the center.
You have to be honest: With today's experience (and rigid noise limits), the town square would no longer be implemented as a venue in this way. Either the city pulls through the area designed in this way consistently and against resistance from the neighborhood. Or: Why not courageously change course and rebuild? A green oasis in the middle of the city, with lingering spaces for passers-by and a high quality of stay also has its charm. I'm sure the trees would like that. Andreas Baar
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Benches to protect trees
Sebastian Fügener (Greens) pleaded for "giving the trees another chance". Martin Janner (PM) was also able to make friends with the floor replacement variant, but suggested benches around the trees as spacers and protection for the sensitive soil. A proposal that was taken away by the administration.
Too compacted: The soil around the trees hardly allows any water to pass through – also because the soil is trodden on. © Andreas Baar
Hardi Lenk (SPD), as a veteran city councillor, defended the decision at the time in favour of the chestnuts and their locations: "They had discussed for a long time", also consulted the citizens and obtained expert opinions. Ludwig Schmuck (CSU) also defended himself: "We have not turned a meadow into a stone desert. The place was built on." Armin Jabs (BfP) also took up the cudgels for the current site: "A city needs a place like this."
CSU: Basically talk about space
On the other hand, Maria Probst (CSU) clearly rejected the slimmed-down version of the renovation. She criticized an "expensive doctoring on a chronically ill patient". For Probst, one thing is clear: "The trees are simply wrong at this location." Probst urged people to think about the town square as a matter of principle – especially in view of noise protection problems with residents and as in the case of the "ice fairy tale". The CSU is planning its own application to take a closer look at the area, the parliamentary group leader announced.
A 'no' vote
In the end, it became a clear decision. The vast majority of the building committee agrees with tree variant B – the attempt to save the existing trees, including possible replacement measures. Only CSU representative Probst said "no". Probst was the only one to vote in favour of the comprehensive package with a complete replacement of the trees.