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Ford Avenue oak trees coming down
oaks down 1
Crews began cutting down the oak trees at the corner of Highway 144 and U.S. 17 Monday morning. - photo by Ted O'Neil

Despite the rain, workers continued Tuesday morning and early afternoon removing the centuries-old oak trees at the corner of Highways 144 and 17 in Richmond Hill.

City officials last week announced the trees would be taken down due to their decay and liability issues.

The work started around 10 a.m. Monday and is expected to wrap up Thursday.

An arborist hired by the city in 2014 recommended that the trees be taken down because they were damaged beyond repair.

“It is the professional opinion and recommendation of this arborist that abatement options cannot reduce the hazard situations presented; therefore, these trees should be removed,” Jerry Holcomb wrote in his March 20, 2014, report.

Holcomb gave both trees a “hazard rating” of 10 on a scale in which 12 is considered the most severe score. He wrote that the scores mean “both trees have been determined to have potential structural injury and defects that could cause the trees to fail.”

Assistant City Manager Scott Allison said the work, which will cost about $14,000, would take four days to complete.

The Bryan County News was the first to report last week that the trees would be taken down, and readers reacted in large numbers on the News’ Facebook page against the announcement. A few onlookers watched the work begin Monday morning but there were no protesters present.

Holcomb’s report indicated that widening Highway 144 in 2013 “encroached within the critical root zone” of the trees because roots had to be cut back for curb installation and for the placement of electrical boxes that control traffic signals. He also reported that pruning has removed about 40 percent of the canopy of the trees and offset the balance of the oaks.

City Councilman Russ Carpenter said efforts were made to save the trees, but liability became a concern.

“Savannah was successfully sued for millions of dollars when a dying oak limb fell on a woman, injuring her terribly,” Carpenter said. “If we continue to keep the trees despite knowing that they are dying, we may be making our city liable for a costly lawsuit.”

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