Suwannee Democrat

February 19, 2013

De-tree or not de-tree? That was the question...

Joyce Marie Taylor
Suwannee Democrat

Jasper — Veterans Service Officer Clay Lambert invited the Hamilton County Board of County Commissioners out to the site of the Veterans Memorial Park on Tuesday, Feb. 5, to discuss removal of several old, unsightly, dead trees in preparation for leveling of the ground in order to begin work on construction of the park.

The new park is located in front of the courthouse annex on the corner of NW 15 Avenue and Chanbridge Drive. It sits on a 2-1/2 acre parcel of county-owned land and when completed will be an aesthetic sight for travelers on US 41 through the downtown area of Jasper. There are nearly 1,300 veterans in the county and the park is being designed to honor those who have died in the line of duty. The county has already allocated $39,000 toward the first two phases of the project.

Phase one of the project involves removal of specified trees. All the commissioners, Randy Ogburn, Buster Oxendine, Josh Smith, Beth Burnam and Robert Brown, along with County Coordinator Danny Johnson and several other interested parties toured the entire area with Lambert and examined each of the trees.

Lambert had placed red ribbons around the trunks of the trees - mostly water oaks that had lasted their shelf life - that he and the park committee felt needed to be removed in order to accommodate all of the structures that will be placed in the park. The dead water oaks have been dropping limbs for a while, he said.

Many of the tall pine trees, he added, were also dead and right now all they are doing is serving as lightning rods. His concern on a few of the pine trees is that if they aren’t removed and happen to get struck by lightning, they could fall atop the marble memorial wall that is going to be constructed to honor the forty or so Hamilton County veterans who died serving our country.

Lambert explained that if the selected trees aren’t removed from the area where the plaza and memorial bricks are slated to be laid, the root systems would eventually bust through and destroy the plaza.

Some of the planned structures for the new park will be the welcome wall and entrance sign out by US 41, a Wall of Honor, a concrete plaza, flag poles, pedestals, walkways, benches, a timber bridge and a large pavilion with a stage.

Aside from removing several trees, Lambert said they have been researching with a local nursery to decide which types of trees they can plant to replace the ones being chopped down, specifically low maintenance and fast growing shade trees.

“Those will be laid out symmetrically to enhance the pavilion and the plaza,” Lambert said.

The trees in the park now are naturally grown and located haphazardly throughout the park area, he explained. Most of the perimeter trees will stay put, however, especially around the proposed pavilion area, in order to offer shade for visitors to the park until the new trees mature.

Comm. Burnam told Lambert, “I’ll tell you right now, I love trees.”

She pointed out a few of the marked trees that she felt should not be chopped down because they didn’t seem to be interfering with any of the planned structures, nor would they block the view of the park from the street.

Lambert replied, “I’m always up to discussion.”

Burnam did admit, however, that “some of them, if you get up close and look at them, they are not pretty, healthy trees,” she said.

Out of the dozen or so trees Lambert had marked with ribbons to be taken down, he wound up compromising with the commissioners and agreed not to remove five of them. The remaining trees will be “de-mossed” and trimmed up to make them healthier and look more aesthetic. There are also a couple of unsightly trees that butt up against the annex building that Comm. Oxendine suggested should come down while the tree removal crew is onsite. That cost will be broken out separately, he said.

Oxendine said to Lambert, “It’s in your hands and as far as I’m concerned you can proceed.”

Lambert said he is really looking forward to construction of the pavilion, which is in the fourth phase of the project.

“That’s later on,” he said. “You can hold events, plus in inclement weather you’ve got the auditorium. I think it will get a lot of use.”

Lambert was referring to the old high school auditorium, which is right across from the park.

“We owe it to our veterans to get it done,” Comm. Ogburn told Lambert. “Let us know what we can do to assist you.”

Anyone who desires to make a donation to the Park Foundation can do so by contacting Clay Lambert-VSO or Laura Dees-Supervisor of Elections, or mail a check to 1153 NW US Highway 41, Suite 1, Jasper, Fl. 32052.

If anyone has questions about the new Veterans Memorial Park, feel free to contact Bo Beauchemin at 386-855-1023 or Clay Lambert at 386-792-1272.