Motorists on Ronald Reagan Drive might have noticed the absence of eight flowering Bradford pear trees in front of a building that will become the new Columbia County Emergency Operations Center.
On April 11, crews contracted by the county cut down the Bradfords, which to the untrained eye might have looked like a thriving stand of stately trees.
Columbia County Community and Leisure Services director Barry Smith, however, says the trees posed a danger to motorists and pedestrians and needed to be replaced.
"That species of tree, the Bradford pear, is not a suitable urban street tree because ... after they are about 12 to 15 years of age, they get what is called occluded bark," said Smith, who is a certified arborist.
The condition leads to poor structural integrity, he said, and three of the Bradfords already had split at the crotch and heavy branches had fallen onto the sidewalk and street.
Bradford pears have a short life span compared to oaks, lasting only about 25 years, according to the Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service's Web site. Though they are resistant to disease and pollution, the pear trees are susceptible to ice storms and other severe weather because of their poor structural integrity, the Web site states.
"So we took the pro-active approach and removed the trees," Smith said.
Smith, who has previously held the position of parks and trees director in Richmond County and a similar post in Savannah, said he realizes the Bradfords will be missed.
The front lawn of the future Emergency Operations Center, however, will not be bare for long, he said.
The Bradfords soon will be replaced with eight new oak trees that will match the oaks that line the other side of Ronald Reagan Drive, Smith said. The oaks will be about 6 inches in diameter and reach to about 14 to 16 feet tall.
"They'll fill the space," Smith said. "The Ronald Reagan corridor will now have continuity to it."
Smith said it was best to replace the pear trees now, not only because of safety concerns but also for aesthetics along Ronald Reagan Drive.
"If we didn't replace them now, we would have had to replace them later, and then the (oak) trees on the other side of the road would have been much bigger," he said.
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