The cherished oaks that line urban Durham's streets give near-downtown neighborhoods much of their character. But their time has been widely recognized to be coming to an end, as the trees reach the end of their natural lifespan.
And, of course, today's oaks run smack into the little problem of Duke Energy power lines, which weren't so much a concern when the trees were first planted during the Great Depression era as a WPA project.
It's fitting, then, that the economic stimulus effort of the Great Recession would come along to help replace some of these trees. (Goodness knows it's better than the trees being left to their current wacky-cutback state.)
The City's ARRA stimulus-funded program to replace 30 dead or dying oaks along Duke Street and Gregson Street will kick off next Monday, taking advantage of the light holiday traffic for significant street closings and tree removals -- with all the trees in affected blocks coming down over a three-day period.
And come January one hundred new trees, all attractive species intended to interfere less with the power lines, will go up in their place.
The project starts Monday Dec. 28, with two crews working on Gregson to remove 13 trees between the 600 and 1200 blocks; all the trees on that segment will be removed in one day.
Work switches to Duke Street on Tuesday Dec. 29 and Wednesday Dec. 30, when two crews will remove 17 trees in the 700 to 1200 blocks of the northbound street.
Travelers beware: Gregson will be closed on Monday and Duke on Tuesday and Wednesday to accommodate the work.
The tree removal is being funded by Duke Energy out of this year's budget, which comes to a close for the utility on Dec. 31. The work period can also be significantly shortened by extended traffic closures possible only on a week like next week, when school's out of session and work traffic is light at best.
Replacement trees will go up starting next month. According to a Trinity Park Neighborhood Association newsletter from this summer, trident maples, single-stem crepe myrtles and redbuds will comprise the replacement set of trees.
Fliers are slated to be distributed to impacted property-owners today to alert them to the removal schedule; residents were consulted earlier this year when the City brought the ARRA-funded replacement opportunity before the neighborhood.
Disclosure: The author sits on the TPNA board of directors.