Oak trees to be removed at U.S. 17, GA Hwy 144 intersection in R - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Oak trees to be removed at U.S. 17, GA Hwy 144 intersection in Richmond Hill

(Source: WTOC) (Source: WTOC)

Two large and very old live oak trees are set to come down at the intersection of Highways 144 and 17, in Richmond Hill.

As, you can imagine, it’s got some people up in arms about not wanting to cut them down, but nevertheless, they are coming down, and it’s because officials say they are dying and decaying.

Although the trees will be cut down, the city has been working on a plan since 2014 – way before the thought of removing the trees – which will make the intersection beautiful, and full of flowers and landscape.

"It hurts, but you've got to think of the people,” said resident, John Mikrut.

John Mikrut has lived in Richmond Hill for 14 years, and says he's seen change and growth in this area. He says the oak trees are beautiful and are a part of history, but at the same time, they're dangerous.

"They overhang the street. God forbid there's a storm. Cars line up here; they're sitting here for a while. If one of those limbs fall, the people that are underneath it, it’s going to hurt them, real bad."

Richmond Hill City Manager Chris Lovell agrees. He says it was a hard decision to let the trees go, but his responsibility is to keep everyone safe.

"For what it’s worth, we've been pruning and trying to keep this tree from being cut for years, and at the end of the day, our ultimate responsibility is to our public, and to make sure the thousands of cars that pass through those trees every day are safe,” said Richmond Hill City Manager Chris Lovell. "All kinds of alternatives were looked at to see if there was any way to save these trees. As we recognize, it’s part of our history, and we really want to keep them.”

They even had the Georgia Department of Transportation and an arborist inspect the trees. The arborist report says they have root damage from street widening, they're hazardous with declining health, and they should be removed.

Assistant City Manager Scott Allison says a plan that has been in the works for two years is now on its way.

"The original plan for the intersection included the oaks, which are in this location," Allison said. 

But, it was back to the drawing board once they realized they had to be removed.

"We'll never be able to get back these oaks, you know, but we're trying to make this area, this cross roads, this gateway to the city, and an area of importance as it always has been, and kind of memorialize it."

This includes beautiful landscaping, new traffic signals that will get rid of the overhead lines, and replace it with mast arms, Savannah grey brick columns, and white railing.

The city plans on cutting the trees down next week, and will start planting new plants at the intersection in October.

The plan is to have this all done by the end of the year. 

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