Beauty and safety were the main concerns of residents gathered at Monday’s Midway City Council meeting.
Martin Road is known as a scenic drive because of the oak trees with their branches forming a canopy over the road.
Some of the tree limbs have been falling onto the road, and Midway Mayor Dr. Clemontine Washington contacted Robert Bell, the Liberty County Extension Agent with the University of Georgia, to check on the trees.
He marked the trees with ribbons, creating concern among residents that the trees were about to be cut down. Bell started by saying he had two disclaimers. First, there is no way to tell how a tree looks internally. He said there are a lot of issues, such as termite damage, with trees that are both large and old. His second disclaimer was that he isn’t a certified arborist. Bell said that he has 28 years of experience and has worked with the city of Hinesville, Fort Stewart and the trees for Warriors Walk.
“During my assessment, I was very lenient in the looks I made. During that process, I was stopped by several individuals expressing concern with my presence and why I was marking the trees,” Bell said. “I was stopped for two purposes. One, individuals were concerned about the removal of the trees, and the others were concerned about being hurt by the trees. So when I did my assessment, I was very lenient.”
Bell only marked trees that had some type of hazard that extended over the road. He said there are other trees that pose potential hazards, but those limbs face a different direction. In total, 40 trees that need some type of work were marked.
“Thirteen of those 40 need to be removed because of hazards, holes there, the structural integrity is weakened or because the tree is dead,” he said. “If you drive down Martin Road, you’ll see where large branches have fallen onto the road. And I think that’s what the mayor’s concern was. To make sure that no one would be injured riding up and down the road.”
Bell also mentioned that not all the trees are live oaks. He said some are sweet gum, water oaks and laurel oaks. Not many live oaks are marked for removal, but some need trimming. He found that some limbs are hanging low over the road and are dead.
Council member Curtes Roberts Sr. said he doesn’t want to see the trees cut unless it’s an emergency, but he understands. He has seen the dead tree limbs and said it was lucky that no one was hurt when the last limb fell on a car.
“I think that cuts can be made where you maintain the canopy on the road,” Bell said. “I certainly don’t want to see Martin Road lose all its tree canopies because I love driving up the road myself.”
Bell went on to explain his method in marking the trees.
“You’ll see all the ribbons around the trees, but not that many trees are going to be cut down,” he said. “The ones that have the single band are ones that need some type of pruning or cut. The ones with the two bands need to be removed. That’s not bad when you consider 2 miles of trees.”
City Council member Melice Grace asked if there was a recommendation to keep the trees from deteriorating.
Bell answered that nothing can be done with a big tree, but he did recommend an annual inspection of the other, smaller ones.
“I was so lenient in assessment,” he said. “If I was a certified arborist, I would be obligated to mark a lot more trees on that road based on what I saw.”
The meeting then opened for public comment.
Local resident Barbara Martin said she appreciated what Bell has done and said. She suggested that the city contact the Georgia Forestry Commission and request information on an arborist service that would not cost Midway any money. She also suggested that the city could look into being designated a “Tree City.”
“We agree that some of the trees need work,” she said. “But I think that canopy is a trademark for this city. We just have so much history here. Everyone who drives through there is amazed at the beauty. We should do everything we possibly can to preserve that.”
Other residents’ comments included:
• Removed trees need to be replaced.
• The person who will trim the trees needs to know the importance of keeping the road beautiful.
• The city should save the trees that can be preserved.
• It’s not worth risking anyone’s life for a rotted tree.
Grace mentioned that there is an ordinance that states a cut tree has to be replaced.
Washington assured the audience that the city will take care of the trees.
“This is our first step,” she said. “We have to come up with a plan. There will be a plan, but we’re not going to go down Martin Road and start cutting trees next week. We’ll get on it as soon as possible.”
The mayor said she will keep everyone informed on the progress of the trees along Martin Road.