GRANOLAPARK • BY GILBERT
According to some the fruit of the sweet gum tree is a pedestrian threat. The fruit – a dry seed pod about the size of a big gum ball with little spikes – is the problem. Some residents claim they are unpleasant and even dangerous to walk on. They say they are a rolling hazard and that the spikes are a danger to children’s tender feet. They also say sweet gum roots damage sidewalks.
They object to the city planting sweet gum trees along sidewalks in the right-of-way for these reasons. They are livid that the city arborist planted some along Maple Avenue. They’ve expressed this to the council several times this year at citizen comment sessions.
In response the council and staff seem willing to give residents a vote on what trees it plants in right-of-ways. The choice will be limited to two. The city arborist follows a formula to ensure a diversity of tree species and types throughout the city. This narrows the choice.
Also, since it buys in bulk lots, it costs the city more to buy a variety of tree species than to purchase the same number of one species.
Though the city made the concessions, the arborist Todd Bolton defended the decision to put in sweet gum trees. The sweet gum “fruit drop” does not last long, he said, and the sidewalks can be swept for that short season. He also pointed out that all trees have some kind of fruit or sap problem. Acorns, for instance, are even more of a rolling hazard underfoot. Ginkos are unwelcome due to their odor when the fruit flowers.
He said that though sweet gums roots will damage sidewalks, so do all other large “over story” trees. He said the public works department replaces sidewalks every twenty years – which is the amount of time the tree takes to grow big enough to cause damage. So, the city is not losing money due to premature sidewalk replacement.
Bolton defended the sweet gum, saying it is a native species, is highly resistant to disease and pests, is rare in the city (so planting them would increase species diversity), and has ornamental bark and fall foliage.
The discussion and the proposed voting procedure are part of an overall process to review and revise the city’s tree ordinance.
The Takoma Junction Task Force is stretching, flexing, and ready to work out! They gave a progress report to the council Jan 31. They’ve divided into subcommittees, each focusing on a TJ issue. One subcommittee is looking at the city owned lot – the parking lot next to the food coop. Another is looking at “movability” – meaning traffic signal timing, crosswalks, and the feasibility of putting in a roundabout.
It doesn’t look good for the roundabout. Preliminary thoughts are that there isn’t enough room to make a good one. Your Gilbert remembers when there was NO traffic light at the corner of Route 410 and Sycamore??? – and the traffic flowed just fine most of the time. The light was put in so residents could get onto Route 410 during morning rush hour. So, why not turn if off the rest of the day?
Also of interest was the news that the coop is thinking of expanding. One option the coop has is to buy the city lot and build there. The current coop building is not owned by the coop so building an annex next to it is a bit chancy. Another, less favored by the coop, option is to relocate to a nearby storefront.
The committee will be back in March with a report.
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