where the roots meet the road

Brent Finnegan -- February 29th, 2008

Yesterday, the DNR reported that 23 trees are slated to be removed along the east side of Main Street downtown. That’s right; 23. I was thinking; why were the five relatively young trees in front of Cally’s spared, yet so many of these older trees are getting the ax?

I asked the Tree Advisory Board, and Eddie Bumbaugh, Executive Director of HDR, to break it down for me. The headline in yesterday’s DNR may lead the reader to believe that the $400k – $900k bids are all about the trees. However, the project has more to do with replacing the sidewalks than anything else.

The sidewalk he’s referring to is along the east side of Main Street, between Bruce and Elizabeth. Many of the trees on that sidewalk are planted close together, and the roots are spilling out of their concrete confinements.

Those trees are slated to be replaced with nine new trees, which will be planted further apart.

All trees downtown were appraised by Jim Urban. You can read Fraisier Associates‘ notes to the Tree Advisory Board here. Here’s a relevant highlight:

All trees [along the east side of main street downtown] were found to be highly stressed. Indicators of stress include angular vs. sweeping branches. Healthy Honey Locust twigs would be long and wispy vs. zig-zag. Twig growth tips were also found to be shorter than normal. Tree spacing is varied but in many cases just 12′ on center, too close for uniformly healthy trees. The strongest trees crowd out their weaker neighbors.

Only three [of the 23] are judged in fair condition — the rest poor.

That same document also explains why the trees in front of Cally’s were spared:

The line of five Zelkovas on the west side of Court Square and row of ornamental cherries and row of four ash on the south side of Court Square were also examined. Jim Urban found all of the Zelkovas in excellent health. Tight, multiple branching at the main crotch is a result of nursery pruning to encourage a fuller head; not the natural growth of a Zelkova. These street trees are impressive; perhaps the City’s best. It would be a great shame to lose them.

There will be another public meeting in March, explaining the plan in more detail. Bumbaugh hopes to have the sidewalk project underway in April.

13 Responses to “where the roots meet the road”

  1. Thanh says:

    That’s a really great video interview you posted finnegan.

    I also understand that there’s a good plan in the works for the shrubbery and plants that will go in the planters around the trees, which I think will be pretty cool; it’ll be like more greenspace under all that new shade. The design engineers will be working closely with the Parks & Recreation Department staff in determining what kinds of plants will be planted there. (Parks & Rec is the department responsible for maintaining the trees and vegetation in public spaces downtown.)

    I’ve also heard that the public meeting planned in March will be good and I would encourage anyone who is even the bit curious about what the new streetscape will be like to go. There will be landscape professionals there to explain the thought process behind their plans and also what they envision the downtown streetscape (including sidewalks, signage, street lighting, and vegetation) to be like in future years. When I find out the date of the meetings I’ll post it here, unless someone else has beat me to it. :o)

  2. You’re absolutely correct, Thanh. In addition to the 9 trees (of substantial caliper measurement), over 1,300 perennials are in the plan. And when you consider that this phase of the streetscape improvement is only a start to the overall plan, 9 bigger, healthier trees and 1,300 new perrenials represents a major increase to the leafiness of downtown.

  3. Zach says:

    Good work Tree Advisory Board.

  4. Thanh says:

    Downtown Streetscape Public Information Meeting. Thursday April 10 4pm-8pm. Massanutten Regional Library. For the public, citizens, business owners, everyone. Members of the design team, engineers, city staff, and others will be available to answer questions.

  5. David Miller says:

    Alley concrete to be laid (weather permitting of course) Friday and Monday! :)

  6. Thanh says:

    David, are you referring to the Pedestrian Bridge between Court Square and Water Street?

  7. finnegan says:

    HDR just sent out a press release.

    city planners agreed to replace the trees with new more vigorous ones as part of the streetscape improvement project labeled The Next Step Downtown. The replacement will begin this week.

  8. Emmy says:

    We just witnessed one of these trees coming down on our way to Midtowne Market. It was quite impressive.

  9. David Miller says:

    Sad to see em’ go (glad to hear you were on your way to Midtowne:). I hope the new trees will grow quickly.

  10. Frank J Witt says:

    Daid, that “Joose” you guys sell is some pretty serious stuff. Have you tried it?

  11. Frank J Witt says:

    “DAVID”…damn I hate typing…

  12. David Troyer says:

    For anyone who is curious, you can see the plans and construction time lines for this project in the office window to the right of Wilson Jewelers on Main.

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