A tiny tree, mysteriously uprooted, may seem like a small thing. But it’s the symptom of a bigger problem, said Manhattan resident Diane Swanson.
When a thin sapling, no more than 5 feet tall, was pulled from the ground in front of her home at 816 Vattier St. on Saturday night, it was the latest of three strange incidents involving the destruction of trees on her property in the past year.
The first occurred in August, when a 200-pound,13-foot tree planted in Swanson’s front yard by the city was unearthed and stolen. The second happened soon after, when someone replaced the first tree with a new, smaller one — the same that was uprooted on Saturday.
Swanson filed a complaint with the Riley County Police Department, and told them of some neighbors she thought might be responsible. The police account of the incident: “A tree was removed from the ground. It was not hers. It had no value.”
Swanson, a professor in the College of Business Administration at K-State, said she understands that it would be easy to write off the problem. But she thinks the incidents illustrate a pattern in her neighborhood, an area near campus heavily populated by students in rental properties and a few long-term residents who own homes there.
“I don’t think the city takes the state of these older neighborhoods seriously,” she said. “We face a lot of problems over here. This calls to issue safety and aesthetics and taxpayers’ money.”
She said it has been difficult, at times, for her to coexist with her young neighbors. Over the years, she said there have been trash and noise issues with various tenants of one house near hers. And there was an argument a few months ago when she asked her neighbors to pick up the beer cans littering their front yard.
“There was a bunch of profanity used,” she said. “They asserted their right to litter their lawn. I tried to tell them, city code says no. It’s not so much of a problem now. I think they were enlightened by the city.”
Swanson said that she thinks rental properties, especially those that aren’t well maintained, attract a certain kind of renter.
“I think that sometimes, the conduct in these rental houses — people come and go — sometimes use them as party houses,” she said. “It’s good to draw the line, because I don’t want this behavior to escalate beyond the curb. I know people in Manhattan are used to writing off these neighborhoods. My concern is that with deviant behavior, there’s a line drawn.”
She said she thinks that measures like the rental inspection program that was revoked earlier this year would have help the situation.
“I know it’s a very politically sensitive,” she said. “I’m not sure the people who voted that down live where I live. I’m from Leawood, Kansas, where — my god — no one from Overland Park or Leawood would let a neighborhood deteriorate like that. I have to say, I think it’s by design.”
Swanson said she plans to install surveillance cameras in case of further problems.