Most of the branded Water and Laurel Oak Trees are about 90 years old and have fallen on cars and homes during storms or have signs they could be dangerous in the future, according to city officials.
“I hate to lose a big tree, but there comes a time when it’s just the prudent thing to do,” said arborist and Augusta Tree Commission Chairman Roy Simkins. “You can’t let a time bomb sit there waiting to be a disaster and say ‘Wouldn’t it be a shame to take that tree down?’ ”
Removing deteriorating trees from Olde Town has become a priority after several instances of limbs falling on residents’ property after storms. The question now is how the city will replace the trees and keep the green spaces thriving.
Augusta Recreation Parks and Facilities horticulturist Sam Smith said he is preparing to bid a planting project for 25 trees. However, Simkins said he is unsure whether the budget will allow for the city to re-plant as many trees that will be uprooted.
“The plan is to plant new trees … but sometimes we have to count on landowners to replace them,” Simkins said. “We might need the adjacent landowners to pitch in.”
Simkins began inspecting the trees two weeks ago and marked the rotting ones with an X in white spray paint. To the untrained eye, most look intact and strong. But the trees he marked have decaying trunks and fruiting bodies of fungi at the bases that eat away at and weaken them, Simkins said.
The city is now preparing to bid out the uprooting project to an outside contractor, which is expected to be completed in the next few months.
All of the almost 60 trees to be removed are between East Boundary and Fifth Street on Broad Street and between East Boundary and 10th Street on Greene Street.
Rick Keuroglian, the president of the Olde Town Neighborhood Association, said there’s no debate that the decaying trees are dangerous but that residents want to be sure the trees are replaced.
“Every storm we’ve had it seems it’s wreaking havoc in the area,” Keuroglian said. “It’s caused damage, hit homes, destroyed property. But I just want to know what’s the plan to replace them.”