The mysterious poisoning of 40 poplar trees at Harrogate Golf Club has been labelled a disgrace by an enraged club member.
Within the last year, holes were drilled into the 30-year-old trees and poison, possibly industrial-strength weedkiller, allegedly inserted into the bark.
The club has spent £14,000 cutting down 32 of the dying trees, for fear they could fall on houses at nearby Fairways Avenue, or the footpath between the course and the road.
The club’s Head Greenkeeper Paul Mitchell explained: “We regularly check the trees, and noticed in November there were signs of some of the poplars dying at the top.
“A tree surgeon came, and we could see there was evidence of trees being drilled into.
“There is plenty of evidence of it being done, but no evidence of who did it.”
The Forestry Commission has visited the site and agreed the trees had to be removed.
Work to clear the trees will be completed this week, and tree surgeon Gary Wilson, of Trees R Us, admits it is one of the most severe cases of tree damage he has seen.
He said: “It looks like they were drilled one year ago, and although we can’t know exactly what they used, it looks like some sort of industrial ‘roundup’.
“I have not seen a case this severe. It is not just vandalism, I would say it is large-scale criminal damage.”
He added: “Poplars are no use for firewood, so they will be stacked and used as habitats for wildlife.”
Club members have joined residents and Starbeck Coun Janet Law in condemning the poisoning.
Fairways Avenue resident and club member Jerome Peel said: “It is just disgraceful that someone could do this.
“I walk my dog down there, and it looks like someone has dropped a bomb.
“The devastation is just so shocking.
“We need all the trees we can get, we can’t afford to have them poisoned.”
Harrogate Borough Coun Law said: “I am appalled, I still can’t really believe someone has done this.
“Nobody knows who has done it, but whoever did will think they are getting away with it.
“It worries me that this can happen.”
The incident was reported to North Yorkshire Police in November.
Ruth Skaife-Clarke is Secretary at the 120-year-old club, which has 700 members.
She said: “It has cost us £14,000, which is members’ money.
“We will contact the police again, because we would like to get closer to knowing who has done this.
“We wrote to residents to let them know we were taking the trees down.
“It is just really disappointing because we have been trying to encourage the course to be a good area for wildlife.”
Ms Skaife-Clarke added: “The members are very cross about it, we are enraged someone could do this to all the trees,”
Coun Law has joined unnamed members in pledging to donate a £40-£50 sapling to help the area grow again.
Any individual or business wishing to do so can contact the club on 01423 862999.