Liberty County suffered the loss of at least four of its oldest live oak trees this week — symbols of Georgia’s beauty and heritage.
The oaks, landmarks along Highway 196, withstood the ravages of the Civil War, and possibly date back to the American Revolution.
Their demise was a result of roadway widening, an effort by the Georgia Department of Transportation meant to ease traffic congestion and reduce the number of wrecks along the "three-mile shortcut" between Hinesville and Bryan County.
While it’s inevitable some trees will be lost as the county grows, their destruction is not only regrettable but heartbreaking. Could they have been saved? Possibly.
The people who owned the property where the trees stood said they provided the DOT with at least one alternative: They would donate land that might have been used to bypass the trees. The offer was declined.
Harry Rogers has been very active in his efforts to save the live oaks, having voiced his objections to the media and their elected leaders.
County Commissioner Pat Bowen, who represents the 4th District, said he tried to do what he could to save the trees, but got nowhere with the DOT.
Sen. Eric Johnson, who visited the site on two occasions where the trees stood, also failed in his attempts to rescue the ill-fated oaks.
Are such centuries-old oaks worth saving? Are they worth a little extra work, time and expense or should the community simply learn to accept the loss of these "symbols of Southern pride" as an undesirable result of growth? Apparently, that decision was made by the DOT and ultimately rests with the governor who made no effort to address the situation according to parties close to the situation.
If Georgia’s leadership didn’t care enough to take a closer look at the situation, what does that tells us about the future of the state’s heritage and sources of pride?
The Coastal Courier
Feb. 9, 2007