For the second time this summer, Brandon residents are raising concern after the elm trees in front of their houses got the axe because of city construction projects.
Alison Johnston, a resident in the 400 block of 27th Street, said she was heartbroken to see the decades-old tree in front of her house come down on Monday.
"The thing that’s upsetting is the tree in front of my house was over 50 years old and I’m living in the house that I grew up in. My mom sold it back to me and when I moved in, one of the reasons was the elm tree canopy, very mature trees. It was beautiful, the trees were just starting to touch," she said.
"It’s heartbreaking from my perspective that the city couldn’t do everything possible to save the trees."
The City of Brandon is currently in the process of replacing the sidewalks on the east side of 27th Street.
Johnston acknowledges the old sidewalks were deteriorating and needed replacing, but said she is sad nonetheless to see five trees on her block be cut down.
"It took 50 years to grow and less than an hour to cut down. It was very upsetting."
The city replaced the sidewalks on the west side of the street last year and didn’t have to cut down any trees, which gave Johnston hope that the ones on her side could be saved too. But that wasn’t the case, and several trees on her side were cut down, leaving a hole on one side of the street’s tree canopy.
The stumps of the old trees are gone too, leaving only a mound of dirt. Johnston said the city ground up the stumps once the trunk of the tree was removed.
Aaron Kaluzniak, the city’s infrastructure manager, said the issue with the 27th Street trees is similar to an issue earlier this summer on 14th Street — where elm trees had to be cut down for the city to widen the road and replace the sidewalk.
Digging up the old sidewalks on 27th Street destroyed the root structure of the trees, which makes them a safety hazard in case of a storm or heavy wind. He said it was just luck that the trees on the other side of the street didn’t have to be cut down last year. Their roots ran deeper than the ones on the east side of the street.
"Those large roots are just integral to the structure of the tree. When you lose the big roots, sometimes the trees will die, other times in wind storms, things like that, those roots aren’t there to hold them anymore and they can be moved by the wind and knocked over."
Coun. Shaun Cameron (University), who represents the area, said he only heard about the trees being cut down that morning and wasn’t able to delay the work. He said, though, that the city will replace the cut-down trees with more mature saplings, which are five to seven years old.
"I think it’s important in this instance that we maintain the character of the area. Obviously, we want to approach it with having more-established trees being in there to replace them, as opposed to having something that would have a little bit of a tougher time getting a start."
The city needs to do a better job of succession planning, he said — a plan for establishing a tree canopy within the city.
"It’s something that’s very valuable to the residents and it’s important for our environment as well, so I think it’s something that council needs to be aware of and something we need to look at when we’re awarding contracts for (requests for proposal)."
Kaluzniak said the city is currently planning on replacing the trees with new ones in the fall, once construction work is done.
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