Vol 7 No. 20 - Februaury 7, 2007

Tree-cutting prompts outcry

Australian pine stumps lie beside Gulf Drive at Cortez Beach in Bradenton Beach. The trees were taken down by Manatee County as it clears the way for the Coquina Beach Trail, a multi-use path that runs from Fifth Street South to the Longboat Pass Bridge between the beach and parking lots. The downing of the trees brought angry response from people who want to keep them, even though they are invasive and non-native.

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

Work has begun on the multi-use path, also known as the Coquina Beach Trail, and the first item of business is clearing some of the Australian pines that are in the way.

Some people are unhappy about losing the pines and have been letting city hall know it.

According to Judy Pruitt at the Building Department, about 10 people called last week to complain. Programs and Projects Manager Lisa Marie Phillips said some of the callers were referred to her.

Robin Blackmore lives in England but vacations at his second home in Bradenton Beach. He was out Thursday watching as crews took down some of the pines along the parking area for Cortez Beach. He said it seems to him that the county is taking down more than the 37 trees Manatee County Parks and Recreation Project Director Tom Yarger said a week earlier.

"I talked to one of the men working there and he said they had marked about 100 trees to be cut down," he said.

Yarger said that original number of 37 trees went up when they looked at the plans more closely and saw how many were in or near the path of the trail.

“We marked all the trees that were in the way or close enough to where their root systems would be damaged by the trail and it totalled nearly 100,” he said. “When we realized it was that many, we adjusted the path again and pared it down to 66. I don’t think it will go over that.”

Former city councilman James Kissick said he recommended the trees be planted back in the 1970s. He said the county tried hard to save the southern tip of the Island back then, when it did not extend much farther south than 13th Street South. He said the county put large rocks, then smaller rocks to extend the land mass, but there was severe erosion. The county finally put in the three groins that helped hold the beach, but it was still very fragile.

"I recommended they plant the Australian pines because they had a wide root base that could help build up the beach," he said. "They did and it worked."

Kissick said he does not mind having the county remove the pines, as long as they make sure the beach is maintained. He said he realizes they are not safe.

"Having no tap root, they will blow over at 90 miles per hour," he said. "If they fall across Gulf Drive, it will block the escape route for about half the people on Longboat Key."

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