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Downtown Victoria trees cut down for sidewalk

By DAVID TEWES
Nov. 15, 2010 at 5:15 a.m.

Kenneth Eggemeyer, of Custom Tree Removal in Yoakum, works to cut down a tree in front of the Victoria Public Library on Sunday. Eggemeyer was contracted by the city of Victoria to remove trees along Main Street that are in the way of building a new sidewalk.

THE ISSUERemoval of two trees along Main Street near the Victoria Public Library has sparked complaints from the public.

Lynn Short, public works director, said the trees had to be removed to make a new sidewalk compliant with federal regulations for the disabled.

There are no plans to remove the remaining trees around the library.

Miguel Torres was troubled when he learned that decades-old trees were cut down over the weekend to make way for a new sidewalk in downtown Victoria.

"I don't understand why they can't square them in and go around," he said. "Those trees have probably been there for a long time."

Torres said Goliad built streets around old trees, and he thinks Victoria could have at least made a change in the sidewalk plans to keep the trees.

Lynn Short, the city's director of Public Works, said a contractor was hired to cut down two trees along Main Street next to the Victoria Public Library. But he said there was nothing sinister about the action, which was done to accommodate the brick-paver sidewalk being constructed.

"Our original intent was to build the sidewalk around those trees," he said. "But because of the size of those root structures, we could not make an Americans with Disabilities Act compliant sidewalk."

And the city is required to meet the specifications of the act if it replaces the sidewalks, he said. The roots would have made the walkway too steep for someone in a wheelchair.

Torres also questioned why the city would have the work on a weekend when fewer people would be around to witness it. "I just thought it was kind of shady; they were doing it on a weekend and nobody knew about it."

But Short said there is less traffic on weekends and less danger for pedestrians and drivers.

James Stewart, the city's former library director, said he couldn't recall for sure how old the trees were. He said his recollection is they were planted about the time the library was built in the mid-1970s.

Dayna Williams-Capone, the current library director, said she reviewed photos of the area when the library was built and all that shows are two saplings where the trees were. She said that leads her to believe the trees were planted when the library was built.

Short said while the city plans to leave the other trees around the library, the two that were cut down could pose other problems. He said the root system of at least one tree was getting near the library foundation and could threaten the building's integrity.

"We were also afraid if we damaged the roots or cut the roots in any way to try to make the sidewalk compliant, the tree would probably die," Short said. "Then we would have had to take the tree out anyway, and the sidewalk would have been built around nothing at that point."

There was also the possibility the roots would continue to grow and later crack or break the new sidewalk, he said.

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