Two long-time Hannibal residents, whose roots ran deep on North Main Street, disappeared last week. Removed were a pair of healthy yet troublesome trees that had stood for decades at the eastern end of a public parking lot in the street’s 300 block.
“Ideally you never want to have to cut a live tree down, but if you go on a list of non-preferred trees for sidewalks or parking lots, sweet gums are on there,” said Andy Dorian, director of the Parks & Recreation Department, who authorized the removal of the trees.
While people appreciated the shade that was provided by the trees, Dorian told the Tree Board Wednesday morning that his department would hear “constant complaints” after the gum balls began to fall.
“It’s a (potential) liability. You can fall and hurt yourself. I’ve got one in my front yard and I’m always tripping on those things (gum balls),” said Dorian.
In addition to the gum balls, Tree Board Chairwoman Kristy Trevathan said another problem posed by the trees was their popularity with birds.
The trees were brought down last week with little trouble. However, their root systems have proven more challenging.
“The hope was we could get in here with our backhoes and rip the stumps out,” said Dorian, adding that idea was scrapped when it was realized that pulling out the stumps would damage both the asphalt parking lot and likely some of the recently installed concrete sidewalk. “We have a stump grinder so we’re just going to stump-grind it down and remove as much of it as possible.”
While the planting of trees along North Main is part of the sidewalk project, the removal of the sweet gum trees was not part of that project.
“We thought while they were doing this (sidewalk replacement) and we were redoing the Jake Beckley site, we might as well redo the whole thing and get some trees in here that are a little bit better suited for a sidewalk,” said Dorian, who has budgeted $30,000 for the renovation of that area.
Dorian went to the Tree Board Wednesday seeking suggestions regarding possible replacements for the sweet gums.
Trevathan proposed the Skyline Locust, noting that other Skylines planted downtown have done well during this year’s drought, they make a minimal mess and birds aren’t attracted to them as a nesting site.
“They have proven themselves,” she said.
Although Skylines are the tree of choice for the sidewalk project, that doesn’t mean they will also be chosen as the replacement trees.
“We’ll go look at a handful of trees,” said Dorian. “I’ll do some research and maybe talk to some people on what they want to see down here. Ideally we want to find a shade tree that is not going to cause us problems down the road and that the neighbors are happy with.”