A pack of Stonegate residents walked into the Community Chambers on Tuesday sporting paper “Option 4″ badges to support the salvation of the Italian stone pine trees in their West Davis neighborhood that city engineers had “marked for death.”
At the end of the meeting, with the trees at least temporarily saved, the group walked out in victory.
Roots from several of the stone pines that dot the parkway on the west side of Lake Boulevard in the Stonegate subdivision have ruined patches of an adjacent bike path, making it dangerous for bicyclists and pedestrians alike to traverse. The Lake Boulevard roadway itself and a nearby storm drain also have begun to crack because of the roots.
The severe undulations have forced the city to close the path between the north and south accesses to Lake Terrace Circle since late 2011.
To address the problem, Michael Mitchell, the city’s principal civil engineer, presented five options to the council Tuesday, with emphasis on the last two options: Option 4, to patch up the bike path and keep the trees, or Option 5, to completely rebuild the path with concrete and fix the street and gutter, resulting in removal of at least two trees.
While the prospect of fixing the pathway once and for all appeared to appeal to the council Tuesday, in the end it could not condone action that would result in tree removal.
Upon hearing the testimony from about a dozen Stonegate residents who urged the council to save the trees, council members rejected the staff’s recommendation of Option 5.
“I do appreciate the fact that people love this community for a variety of reasons,” Councilman Brett Lee said. “Obviously for the people here, the trees are very important to them. … I’m just trying to think of different possibilities.”
After considerable discussion to come up with a creative solution to still fix the path, Councilwoman Rochelle Swanson made a motion that the council passed unanimously to have staff come back in a month with a proposal similar to Option 4, which meant maintaining the path without cutting down the stone pines.
This plan would dig up the bad patches, trim the invasive roots and then reapply asphalt to smooth over the path. It would not address the street and storm drain cracking.
In addition to the maintenance plan, however, the council also wanted to hear cost estimates for adding grade ramps for improved access under the Americans With Disabilities Act.
Option 4, as staff had presented it, would have cost the city an estimated $86,120 up front, compared to the full-solution Option 5 that staff projected at $282,000. Staff could not comfortably estimate how much more Option 4 would cost with the addition of the ramps.
Then, as Mitchell and public works staff look at the ADA ramps, the council also asked staff through Swanson’s motion to consider other ways to improve the viability of the trees, such as reduced watering by nearby residents, in an attempt to drive down the roots from the surface.
But even with measures that could save the trees, city arborist Rob Cain explained to the council, they still may need to be removed in the future given the looming work the city will have to do to the street and storm drain.
City Attorney Harriet Steiner also added that staff might not be able to build ADA ramps without the removal of one or more trees.
“I think we are all fully aware that might be the case,” Swanson responded. “But I’d like to … (take) a really good attempt at changing all these other variables that we think are contributing to the problems with the trees out there.”
Mayor Joe Krovoza and Mayor Pro Tem Dan Wolk first pushed for Option 5, the full solution that replaced the entire stretch of asphalt path with cement, in addition to full-scale fixes of the gutter and street, but agreed that giving staff another month to look at the issue is a positive step.
“I am nervous about doing something that doesn’t get us to a permanent solution,” Krovoza said. “But I’m happy to see what this would cost out at. I’m very, very interested in the long-term solution that will make this permanent.”
— Reach Tom Sakash at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @TomSakash