After 15 months of discussion and investigation, the city of Richmond Hill announced Monday morning that the two oak trees at the corner of Highway 144 and U.S. 17 are definitely coming down.
“While we are devastated by the loss of these majestic oak trees, their removal is necessary for the safety of Richmond Hill residents,” Mayor Howard Fowler said in a news release.
Assistant City Manager Scott Allison said the work is to begin the week of May 16, and the contractor said it should take two days to take the trees down and two days to remove the debris. Any traffic impact will be to the right-turn lane from westbound Highway 144 onto northbound U.S. 17 and should be “intermittent,” Allison said. Cost will be about $14,000.
Conduit also is being installed at the intersection as part of a Georgia Department of Transportation project that will put traffic signals on mast arms, removing all overhead wiring. The city will then proceed landscaping all four corners using a $50,000 GDOT grant.
“Removing the trees isn’t part of the grant, but the timing of the work is coinciding,” Allison said. “The landscaping will include a monument of sorts for the oak trees.”
Arborists commissioned by the city and GDOT concurred that the trees exhibit signs of internal rot and decay.
Allison told city council in February 2013 that the trees would have to come down.
“They’re not going to die tomorrow, but they are dying,” he said at the time. “The fact they’re dying, there’s going to become a time when they will pose a risk to public safety.”
The city had attempted to preserve the 200-year-old trees by changing the design of the right-turn lane from Highway 144 onto U.S. 17 and posting notices that no signs were to be nailed to the oaks.