By Roz Rogoff
Saving the SycamoresUploaded: Aug 25, 2012
My last commentary on the Bollinger Canyon Road Sycamore trees ended with a nod to Shel Silverstein's the Giving Tree, "to give some space back to the trees on Bollinger, so they can live and grow and be happy." The City Council will decide this Tuesday night if the Sycamore trees will be happy or gone.
The Council is holding its August 28, 2012 meeting in Dougherty Valley. This is part of Mayor Bill Clarkson's promise to take Council meetings to residents in different parts of the city. The Dougherty Valley Community Center could turn into a lion's den if the City Council cannot find a way to widen the portion of Bollinger Canyon Road from Alcosta to Canyon Lakes Drive and still keep the Sycamore trees in the median alive and well.
Last March the City Council voted to widen that portion of Bollinger Canyon Road, but it would have required taking too much from the median for the 30-year old Sycamores there to survive. The Consultants hired for this project recommended planting Crape Myrtle, Chinese Pistache, and Coast Live Oak. These trees are smaller, more colorful, and easier to maintain than the Sycamores.
Maintaining the Sycamores appears to be another reason why RJA Consultants recommended replacing them with "more appropriate landscaping for this roadway segment." In the minutes from the March 27, 2012 City Council meeting, "Vice Mayor Livingstone stated that public safety is job #1" At the June 12, 2012 meeting when residents came out to protest removing the Sycamores, "Vice Mayor Livingstone noted that no one commented that the sycamores are 'sticks' for half of the year without leaves and color. He sees the replacement plan as an improvement."
Here's how the Sycamores are described on Page 4 of the March 27, 2012 staff report on Item 10.2 in the Agenda.
"Median Landscaping The existing landscaping which consists of Sycamore trees and turf are a maintenance and safety issue The turf requires frequent mowing in an area that is difficult to access due to the adjacent travel lanes The leaves also add to the maintenance during the fall and winter and the tree species is identified as having high ozone emissions Additionally the existing street lights in the median are blocked by the trees and reduce the effectiveness of the existing street lighting along this segment The proposed landscaping will replace these trees and the turf with more appropriate trees and vegetation that will require less maintenance and improve safety The proposed landscaping plan is shown in Attachment C and will be presented in more detail at the meeting."
So widening the street was also a good excuse to get rid of these high-maintenance trees and replace them with easier and prettier and "more appropriate landscaping . . ."
Many residents didn't agree and wanted to keep the Sycamores. The new report proposes taking the same 4' off the median, BUT removing the trees and transplanting 75% of them back into the center of the median.
The original planting staggered the trees alternately to the north and south sides of the median. The transplanted trees would be in a straight line up the center of the reduced median. The plan is to transplant 64 of the 85 trees that are removed, and reserve some of the trees for future transplanting if some of the transplants don't make it.
There are still potential safety issues to be considered about keeping the trees. The median would still require mowing, unless shrubs or other ground cover could be planted instead of grass. The annual falling leaves would still require raking, which could be more dangerous for the landscapers because the median would be reduced in size.
I occasionally drive up that portion of Bollinger Canyon Road but not regularly. The residents of Canyon Lakes, Vista Pointe, and Dougherty Valley, and anyone else who drives up that hill every day should have the most input into this decision.
But here's an observation from the Observer. I was driving up Village Parkway from Dublin last week and noticed how pretty the medians looked. Guess what was planted there? I'm no arborist, but it looked like Crepe Myrtle and Chinese Pistache. I didn't see any Sycamores.