Blocks in Olde Town are getting new trees after residents decided they weren’t going to wait around for city groundskeepers to replace nearly 60 oak trees marked for removal.
“This is the urban forest, and we are trying to protect that,” said Rick Keuroglian, the president of the Olde Town Neighborhood Association.
In September, arborist and Augusta Tree Commission Chairman Roy Simkins marked rotting trees with a big X in white spray paint. Many of the trees had weak limbs in danger of falling on property and had caused damage in some cases.
Keuroglian and other neighbors weren’t pleased that the X marks resembled graffiti as several community initiatives aim to clean up the blocks. The city also implied some replacement costs would be at the residents’ expense.
“That’s not a solution for Olde Town,” Keuroglian said. “A majority of people in this area are renters, and that’s a big burden.”
Replacing the trees could take several years given budget and labor constraints of city maintenance departments. But the neighborhood is trying to speed up the project by holding tree-planting days, typically the second Saturday of each month.
The city will purchase young willow oaks, which cost several hundred dollars each. Between five and 10 trees are delivered to the area for volunteers to plant.
“I think it’s a good thing the residents are taking it upon themselves,” city horticulturist Sam Smith said. “Obviously it saves our staff from having to do it.”
Next week, Smith will open a bid for planting 25 trees on the lower blocks of Broad and Green streets. He hopes those trees will be planted by the end of the month.
About 15 people turned out in November for a test run planting the trees. Curious neighbors joined in for the project after seeing the crew digging in the dirt and carrying trees to the holes. The willow oaks should live at least 200 years.
“People were so excited. The neighborhood came together. It just felt like this was a collaborative effort,” Keuroglian said.