About saving the Coconut Grove trees
On July 20 at 12:30 pm Treewatch will, once again, go before the Historic Preservation Board in an effort to save as many trees as possible from the 11 they want to cut down on Commodore Plaza. It will not be easy. We are going against the Coconut Grove BID, which will bring their paid consultants, their entire board, and an entourage populated by their friends-and-family plan, to argue that the sidewalks are "dangerous" that the trees are hazardous and that business in the Grove will improve as a result of this plan, which involves not just cutting down trees on Commodore, but the entire BID footprint that encompasses downtown Coconut Grove.
So far, this project is removing 9 trees on Florida, 3 on Mary 2 on Virginia and the 11 marked for cutting on Commodore. It will not stop with these 25 trees. This is only Phase One. Looming in the near future is the fate of another 20 trees on Fuller that are also part of this design plan. And they are not unhealthy.
Phase 2 of the project targets the trees on Grand and Main, and you can bet that will be a lot more trees getting the ax, considering their rule of thumb that any tree that has some sort of defect is hazardous.
The fear factor has always been a persuasive strategy to get the masses to conform. The working strategy for tree removal by the BID is that the trees are compromised in some sort of way that makes them a possible hazard. This plan is supported by Commissioner Sarnoff, who recently dedicated an entire eblast "Newsletter" and a Miami Herald Op-Ed piece to the need to cut down these trees in order to make way for new trees to be planted along Commodore. In his recent eblast, Commissioner Sarnoff cited as examples, trees that recently were damaged by a windstorm last month. He pointed out that horticulturist Lisa Hammer predicted this would happen. So now we are all supposed to be afraid that all the trees Ms Hammer suggested for removal could come down at any time. But the truth is, any tree could come down at any given time. Even healthy trees. All it takes is a hit by lightning. Or by a car. or by a Chainsaw.
Steps can be taken to maintain our trees in better health and in safer conditions, but nothing seems to be in place other than marking them for removal. It took repeated pushing on our part to get a tree on Commodore in the public right of way to have a dangerous branch removed (apparently, it was easier to just designate the entire tree as "unsafe" in Ms Hammer's 2010 report, and pile it on to the group of trees designated for removal, regardless of whether the branch was an imminent danger). Similarly, the branch on the tree in Virginia could have been pruned thus avoiding its subsequent falling as a result of the windstorm.
There are trees on the Hammer report that are being marked for removal simply for being an "outdated species." As for the dangerous sidewalks, again, no upkeep. There are places were bricks have been loose or missing for months, even years. Yet, where is the concern for safety? Why aren't the bricks replaced at once? Is it simply easier to just let things deteriorate, declare it all a hazard, and redecorate? The Silva-cell project is only being used here in Coconut Grove, specifically by the Coconut Grove Business Improvement District for this particular project because they have the money in place for this expenditure, and they seem to want to use this Silva Cell system very, very much.
There is only one firm in the entire world that makes the Silva Cell system. And they therefore can dictate the price. Commissioner Sarnoff recently said in his interview with Channel 10 that the cost per tree for Silva Cell is about $3,000. Yet Aida Curtis, of the landscape firm they hired for this project, Curtis and Rogers, when asked at a hearing last fall (Sep 12) specifically how much it would cost, said $7,500 per tree location (the tree would be an additional $1,500). Regardless of the price, the Silva Cell can only be installed with new trees. To plant new trees in the Grove, they seem to need to cut down the "old trees."
On July 20 at 12:30 pm in City Hall, TreeWatch will go and fight to save these trees. We need you support and attendance. (it is the last item on the agenda, so you can get there later perhaps around one if your time is limited).
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