by Monica Starr
On Thursday night, Brevard County officials explained their upcoming plans to remove roughly 30 oak trees on Rockledge Drive. Starting as early as August 18th, this removal process will began and it comes with reimbursements to the residents to plant new trees on this scenic road if they would like. These reimbursements will be up to $2,100 and will allow for the residents of this area to keep it beautiful and full of life after the oak trees are cut down. This project was proposed because of the a safety concern. The oak trees have grown so much, that this area no longer meets the state requirements for vehicle passage. Garbage trucks, emergency vehicles and moving trucks have had so many issues driving through the area that the residents petitioned and protested for this oak tree removal.
The controversy comes from a technical standpoint. Some of the residents in the area explain that these areas where the oak trees have grown are not on the roadway and do not have to follow the Florida Department of Transportation rules in place. The FDOT operations engineer Suzanne Philips explained that “the department does not have any jurisdiction or ownership of the roadway” . This statement has found the attention of activists who do not want to cut the historic oak trees down at all. If the state does not have jurisdiction or ownership over the roadway, why would the county have to follow the state clearance regulations?
Marc Bernath, the Brevard County Public Works Director further explained the specifics of the project. There are a total of 29 trees on private property that would be directly affected. It was explained that 18 of the 29 trees would be completely removed which some residents are not happy about. That being said, there have been some solutions presented to this controversy that allows for the residents of this area to have more of a say about what will happen in August. For example, the homeowners that live on the property where the trees could be completely removed have the option to fill out an application to have these oaks re-planted further from the road and at the county’s expense. The deadline to fill out this application is August 18th.
Here is a link to the petition page set up by local residents to save the oak trees.
Monica Starr is an intern with Ecology Florida, serving as the Public Communications Facilitator for Ecology Florida News. Monica is a graduate student at the University of South Florida studying Global Sustainability.
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