City forester: "Compromise" Kirby widening plan won't save many trees (updated)

Remember all the hoopla when it appeared that the Kirby widening project had been modified in a way that would preserve trees and walkability?

Apparently, it was another case of irrational exuberance from pols (imagine that!).

Michael Reed reports for that the city's forester says most of the Oak Trees along Kirby are unlikely to survive the widening, even after the big "compromise":

Despite a compromise that reclaimed 7 feet of paved width from a plan to revamp Kirby Drive, it now appears that all of the trees between Richmond Avenue and Westheimer Road will be lost to construction.

Houston foresters told a group of about 30 residents Thursday that after walking the site Dec. 7, it was determined that even with a roadway that is 73 feet across, the majority of trees will be unable to survive.

City Forester Victor Cordova said only eight trees within the area have a “realistic chance” of surviving, and that is because they are relatively small rather than in a viable location. He called moving those trees “a very expensive venture.”

At an often-heated meeting Sept. 15, about 150 residents were told by an Upper Kirby Redevelopment Authority (TIRZ) arborist that plans to widen Kirby to 80 feet would mean the removal of all 143 live oaks and 18 smaller trees from the area.

However, at a follow-up meeting Oct. 4 a compromise was announced between the TIRZ and the nonprofit Trees of Houston that was intended to save “as many trees as possible.” However, no numbers were provided.

“Give us another 3 feet on either side and we can talk,” Cordova said of the logistics for the drainage project that will include pedestrian-friendly amenities and buried power lines.

Unfortunately, for those who hoped to see at least some of the present trees remain, traffic ordinances and safety issues preclude Kirby from being rebuilt at its present 66-foot width.

As David Crossley suggests, when city policy requires that so many valuable trees be destroyed to accommodate SUV drivers who find the current lane widths "uncomfortable" there is something seriously wrong with city policy.

UPDATE (01-28-2008): The Chronicle finally got around to covering this story on January 27. The Examiner News story ran on January 23. Way to get scooped by the little neighborhood newspaper, Hearst!

BLOGVERSATION: Houston Strategies.

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 01/24/08 11:33 PM | Print |

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