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Some trees to be saved on Connecticut, Hercules

February 14, 2018
Jessica Salmond - News Editor ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

All may not be lost for some vegetation in the Town of Fort Myers Beach's side-street right of way.

That is, if residents are willing to pay for it.

Town Manager Roger Hernstadt walked through Connecticut Avenue and Hercules Drive Friday with contractors and residents to identify trees in the right of way that have to be removed for the stormwater project.

Article Photos

ReFresh Estero Boulevard spokeswoman Kaye Molnar points out a tree for Tetra Tech's Paresh Patel to safeguard with a ribbon.

Kaye Molnar, spokeswoman for the ReFresh Estero Boulevard project, handed out pieces of pink ribbon for residents to mark the trees to be saved.

"We have to reclaim the right of way," Hernstadt said to a gathering of Hercules residents. "We will see if we can save particular items, we can set it aside as gently as we can."

Hernstadt, Vice Mayor Tracey Gore, Council Member Joanne Shamp and other officials helped residents mark what they wanted.

But, there's no guarantee the trees marked will survive being uprooted and replanted elsewhere.

Barry Hazen, a Hercules resident, wants to save his trees but has no room left on his property, once the town claims its 25-foot right of way through his front lawn.

"'Save?' What does that mean?" he said. "Most of them can't be transplanted."

Twenty-two year Hercules Residents Maurice Kabili and Carol Davis had the town mark off a few trees in hopes to replant them, but Kabili said they're still sad to lose the rest of the street's foliage.

"It's part of the neighborhood identity," Kabili said. "Some of these trees have been here for 30 years. We're very sad to see the trees slated for removal."

While he said he understands the infrastructure had to be updated, he wishes it wasn't the trees being sacrificed.

Residents of Hercules expressed their feelings of being the constant "winner" of town projects, first getting the lift station placed at the entry of their drive by the county, then having their community dock torn out by the town. Hercules is now the recipient of a joint stormwater outfall. The street does not flood, which is why it became the ideal street: streets that flood cannot handle the stormwater capacity needed to drain both the street and the main drain on Estero Boulevard.

Morey and Becca Nakaya are residents of Coconut Drive, but they walked over Friday morning to observe. Coconut is not going to be a joint outfall, and it's also not on the list of 15 priority streets for the town to address, as reported by town consultant Tetra Tech. But Becca said, it does flood.

"We're worried about what's going to be next," she said.

The walk-through effort to protect some trees came after the Feb. 5 town council meeting, during which Hercules residents asked the town to make an effort to help them retain some of the 45 trees slated for destruction.

The trees are located within the town right of way, which is town property. During their Feb. 8 planning session, the town council members came to a 4-to-1 consensus they couldn't let residents replant the trees in the right of way, or help pay residents to plant the tree elsewhere. Molnar said in a previous interview that replanting the trees on top of the new stormwater system could cause it to fail later on, as tree roots could block the drainage. Council said could set aside trees people wanted to keep and allow residents to replant the trees - on their own property and at their own cost.

Council Member Anita Cereceda was the dissenter, saying she would support paying to replant the trees, if there was a way to make that feasible in the budget.

"These trees have ben there since before the town existed," she said. "It would be a great kindness on behalf of the town to transplant the trees for them.

Mayor Dennis Boback did not support paying for replanting, and said people should have checked the survey they got when they bought the house so they knew where their property line ran. He suggested residents could have their own contractor dig a hole and have the site ready for the tree to be transplanted, so as to not risk the death of the tree by letting it sit out of ground for too long.

Council member Joanne Shamp said although Fort Myers Beach is a "tree city," she also couldn't support putting the trees back in the right of way.

"The costs are exorbitant. I just can't ask the taxpayers to pay for trees that were in the right of way," she said, adding that the trees in front of her house had also been stripped away for the project.



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