Citizen’s sentiments slow axe’s swing


Residents attending a recent public hearing appear to have influenced plans for upcoming infrastructure upgrades, and may have rescued a couple of big trees in the process.  
About a half-dozen interested citizens attended the 2014 Street Improvement Project hearing Tuesday, Nov. 19, and City Engineer Phil Gravel walked them through the project’s main components.
The project area includes Linden and Park Avenues as well as areas of Division Street. Proposed work includes street improvements, water main replacement and sewer repairs. Work on Division also includes replacement of the water main and a failed sanitary sewer, as well as minor curb and sidewalk repairs in anticipation of a 2015 county paving project. 
While only about half of Linden’s sidewalk will require replacement, the Park Avenue sidewalk must be replaced entirely, Gravel said, and on the street’s west side, that replacement would dictate the removal of two stately maples about halfway down the block.
Councilmember Deb Geyen asked if there might be any way to preserve the trees, but Gravel said the new curb would be set several feet behind the trunks, rendering them “unsaveable.”
“One thing that’s unique there,” he explained, “is that over time, the paved portion of the road has slid over to the east of the platted right-of-way.” 
The new road, he added, would be shifted back to the right-of-way’s center.
Geyen asked how such a shift could have occurred, and Gravel said he believed the initial intention had been to have a grass median between the curb and sidewalk, where currently there is none.
“That’s an old road,” he said. “I guess when it was gravel, it just cut over that way, and when it came time to pave it, nobody checked property lines, and they just paved it.”
John Northenscold Jr., who lives at 52 Linden Avenue, expressed dismay at the engineers’ intent to take the trees out, saying he’d traveled recently to view fall leaf colors, finding nothing more scenic than his home town’s foliage. 
“When I look at Birch Avenue, it looks like an airport runway, basically, with no trees, all stripped,” he said. “Now we’re going to take our most beautiful park downtown and you’re going to take a couple of big, beautiful maple trees out of there. I think it’s a shame that we’ve been able to use that park, and people and parents have been able to park for their kids’ ball games all these years, and now we put the street in and there’s not going to be any room for those trees.”
Geyen asked if a median between curb and sidewalk was planned for the street and Gravel said a three- or four-foot grass strip was part of the engineers’ design.
“OK, maybe that’s something we should consider, too,” Geyen suggested.
Gravel offered to come back with some altered designs that might preserve the road’s easterly shift, allowing some leeway for the trees to remain, as well. 
“That would have to be a conscious decision that we’re not going to be in the center of the right-of-way,” he noted.
Councilmember John Northenscold Sr. said, “I think that’s a good idea to get rid of that boulevard section. Maybe that would save those trees.”
Gravel agreed to look further into that option. 
More information appears in this week's Messenger.