Tampa City Council members left out of the loop before Ybor City trees were removed

10/04/12 Janelle Irwin
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More than 100 trees in Ybor City were chopped down to waist high stumps last month with what seemed like little warning. Now Tampa City Council is asking why it was such a surprise and what is going to be done to replace the hacked landscaping. Officials from the Parks and Recreation Department said residents and businesses in the area were told some trees would be cut down and replaced, but that wasn’t enough for Tampa City Council member Frank Reddick.

“Somewhere, there was a lack of communication for this to happen and for it to blow up the way it did in the community.”

The old trees were hacked down because they were either diseased, interfering with overhead lines and awnings or tearing through sidewalks. They’ll be replaced with a combination of Crape Myrtles and Olive trees. But city council member Lisa Montelione said the study that was done to determine which trees stayed and which got the ax wasn’t diligent enough.

“So, out of all of those, I think they’re were 10 or 12 that those reports either indicated absolutely nothing – there was no tree species checked off and no tree condition, no notes of any kind and just a photograph attached. When I look at the photograph attached, the trees look pretty good. I mean there’s three or four trees in every photograph, so there might be one that needs to be coming out.”

Montelione also contended that the trees that used to line the streets of Ybor weren’t properly maintained – if they had been, they might not have needed to be replaced. The entire project includes 31 Olive trees and more than 70 Crape Myrtles which are in heavy bloom during the Spring.

“So, if we never maintained the trees that were in Ybor City to start with, how are we gong to put in Crape Myrtles that are hugely in need of maintenance every single season?”

The project in Ybor City will cost Tampa a little over $100,000 from the Tree Trust Fund. The trees were removed quickly to save money. But Montelione said it would have been better to replace the trees slowly even if it increased cost.

“However, part of the charm of Ybor City is the historical character of the area because it’s evolved over time. So, maintaining some of the trees and removing the ones that really needed to be removed would really reflect that character. You’d have old established trees that are big and full. Then you’d have young trees that are just coming up so you’d have that mixture of what makes Ybor City so charming.”

Residents and businesses in Ybor City can expect to start seeing the new trees planted over the next two weeks. The project was originally slated to be completed before the Republican National Convention in August, but do to contracting issues, it was put off. Parks and Recreation is going to come back to city council next month with updated information on the project and the study that led up to it.

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