X marks the end of local trees

  • Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Despite gallant efforts by the Town’s Beautification Commission, several oak trees on Jackson Street in Kingstree will have to come down. Roots have damaged the sidewalk so badly that it can’t be repaired or replaced and are in violation of the American Disability Act. PHOTO BY MICHAELE DUKE

Several oak trees that line a portion of Jackson Street in Kingstree have been marked with a big, bright orange X. The mark identifies the tree for removal by the Department of Transportation. The trees are so close to the sidewalks that their roots have caused the cement to crack and shift, making it unsafe for pedestrian traffic, especially for people with disabilities.

According to SC Department of Transportation resident maintenance engineer Richard Livingston, these particular trees, which are damaging the sidewalk that is inside the right-of-way can’t be saved. “Typically, in a course of action is to not

cut a living tree unless there’s no other viable option,” said Livingston. “In this case, we haven’t been able to determine another viable option besides removing.”

Livingston added that the DOT is also adhering to the law. “Ultimately, what e’re being guided by is the American Disability Act (ADA) Compliance, which has special guidelines and directions on the - in this case the sidewalk - the grade, the crosswalk that it has to adhere to.”

Livingston said the roots have displaced the sidewalk from its installed location and will continue to do so. He said they could cut the roots but that would only lead to more problems. “If we cut one side then what it does is makes the tree (on the opposite side) susceptible to falling because it has no support,” said Livingston. “Cutting roots only damage the tree.” The idea of cutting down most any tree has some citizens up in arms. According to a spokesperson for the Town of Kingstree Beautification Committee a proposal prepared by two certified arborists was submitted to Livingston. Because of the ADA requirements, the only alternative is to re-route the sidewalk. Attorney Billy Jenkinson went that route several years ago in order to save a live oak on his property. The move would; however, place the walk on private property but the property owner turned down the idea. The spokesperson for the Beautification Committee said they are in hopes once the trees are gone the property owner will plant new ones. Towns across the country face similar circumstances when trees ultimately outgrow their space. And many towns have solved the problem. The city of Santa Monica, California has been using rubberized sidewalks made by Terrecon, Inc. since 2000. And in the District of Columbia, the Department of Transportation is experimenting with rubberized materials to deal with trees whose root systems have pushed up sidewalks. Kaitlynn Hendricks, a solutions-focused economist working as a business developer in Washington, DC wrote about the pilot program. The DOT is replacing cement sidewalks with Flexi-Pave, a porous, flexible paving material made from recycled tire rubber. The program is in its first year and so far the product is receiving high marks.

In the meantime, the fate of the five trees lining Jackson Street have run out of options and considering there are others slowly encroaching onto the right-of-ways across the city, finding long-term solutions may be too late for them as well.

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