Motorists traveling from west Augusta and out into Evans must think road construction crews really hate trees.
A Department of Transportation contractor has wiped out all of the trees around the Interstate 20 cloverleaf. Acres of trees have likewise been uprooted around the I-20/Bobby Jones Expressway project, as well as the Davis Road destruction.
And then, last week, crews knocked down the last of the trees on the Washington Road strip near Goodwill Industries.
In The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien, trees are semi-aware creatures. If that were the case in real life, that strip of trees in Evans has been shivering to its roots for nearly six years.
In 2001, those trees were in the chainsaws' sights when a man named Pudge Roberts went into the billboard business and erected his first sign at the edge of Club Car property.
Roberts got permission from CSX Railroad to clear out a swath of trees to make his sign more visible. The only problem was that the sign was erected illegally.
Roberts failed to convince the County Commission to grant him a waiver from its sign ordinance. The sign came down, Roberts left town, and the trees could breathe a sigh of relief.
Until, that is, the county finally worked out its deal to widen Washington Road and add a turning lane in front of Goodwill. That process started two years ago, and included drawn-out negotiations with CSX to get permission for construction to encroach on the rail line's right-of-way.
The county is expected to pay more than $200,000 for CSX to post a flagman at the work site during construction. The last time I noted this ridiculous expense, a couple of retired railroad workers gave me what-for and took the side of CSX. Bully for them.
With the red tape cleared, the only thing left standing in the way was, literally, the strip of trees along the railroad tracks. Not anymore. Crews took them down last week faster than you can say "global warming."
On the bright side, I suppose the trees stood six years longer than we expected. And the road widening is badly needed to reduce the number of almost-daily rear-enders at the shopping center site.
Ogden Nash famously wrote that he never thought he'd see a billboard as lovely as a tree. Around here, it's starting to look like he wouldn't see either.
Columbia County has a real coup this weekend: Augusta's Italian-American Society will celebrate Columbus Day by handling food vending at Saturday's Renaissance Festival.
The event takes place in the Memorial Gardens behind the library. It took a lot of work from the local Italian-American community.
Coming to Columbia County accomplishes a couple of things: It gives the organization a higher profile, rather than burying its flavors among all the other ethnic-food tents at Arts in the Heart of Augusta. And, it allows the organization to celebrate Columbus Day in the county named for the famed Italian explorer.
Christopher Columbus might not have found a new route to Asia, as he intended. But the folks celebrating his landing in our hemisphere have found a way to the namesake's hearts: Through our stomachs. Check out the food Saturday for a taste of Italy in the heart of Evans.
Turkey, in Italiano
Speaking of which, Chef Jeff Freehof, owner of the Garlic Clove, is resurrecting a Golden Harvest Food Bank and Columbia County Cares fund-raiser favorite.
In place of "Turkey Fest," held annually at the former Peppermill restaurant, Freehof will play host to an "Italian Thanksgiving Feast" from 11 a.m. Nov. 19 to raise money for the hunger-fighting agencies.
Put it on your calendar. The food is sure to be a hit, and the cause is a great one. Way to go, Chef Jeff.
Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to barry.paschal at newstimesonline.com.
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