A Bend man has been indicted on counts of first-degree theft and criminal mischief for allegedly cutting down and damaging trees adjacent to his property on the Lost Tracks Golf Course in southeast Bend .
Hank Laskin, 81, allegedly hired Fagan Tree & Chips to remove one large ponderosa pine and limb two others that were 15 to 20 feet from his property line on April 15. Laskin declined to comment for this story and deferred to his attorney, Erick Ward. Ward did not return a call for comment.
According to Lost Tracks owner Brian Whitcomb, the trees located near the eighth hole on the course provided separation and “framing” for the course.
“I know this guy; I’ve talked to him a time or two,” Whitcomb said. “He asked us if we could top the trees; I’ve never seen a pine tree topped and said that wouldn’t be possible. He even came up to my son and tried to suggest that I said he could do it.”
Wade Fagan, owner of Fagan Tree & Chips, said his company doesn’t typically require written documentation and that Laskin orally verified they were his trees and on his property.
“(Laskin) called up and said he’d like to take down a tree in his front yard,” Fagan said. “He said something about, ‘He didn’t feel safe with it around him.’ I said, ‘Somebody’s gonna take it out, might as well be us.’”
Fagan said Whitcomb arrived around 8:45 a.m. and “threw a fit” when he saw that the large pine had been removed. Fagan said Laskin gave the OK for them to fell the tree across the golf course, but wouldn’t let the company park on his property.
“He said, ‘Don’t let the chip truck come up on the driveway,’” Fagan said. “We had to park out on the street and drag it the rest of the way.”
Laskin’s home was put up for sale shortly after the trees were limbed and removed.
“I’m reading between the lines, what he probably figured out is it will enhance the value of my house, a couple hundred thousand dollars,” Whitcomb said. “Oh, Brian gets mad at me and I have to pay him $5,000 — big deal.”
According to court documents, the value of the tree is estimated at $1,000.
Whitcomb said he has started looking into getting a tree transplanted into the area.
“I designed the golf course. I built the golf course. I feel like I’m a pretty big conservator of the land,” Whitcomb said. “The trees are part of the beauty and there’s no way to tell how much damage is done as far as people’s appreciation of the scene out here.”
Laskin is scheduled to be arraigned Thursday.
—Reporter: 541-633-2117, firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor’s note: This article has been updated. In the original, Erick Ward’s name was misspelled.
The Bulletin regrets the error.