Residents voice concerns after historic oak trees removed during Broad Street construction project

Published: Jun. 28, 2022 at 6:19 PM CDT
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MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) - For those living near downtown, the oak trees are an important part of Mobile history.

“The oak tree is part of our heritage that’s for sure,” said Clayton Ryan. “The oak is powerful, strong that’s its symbol and it gives that impression of Mobile”

Some feel the Broad Street construction project hurt that history when three oak trees were taken down which caught the Government Street Collaborative by surprise.

“It does present a situation for us of how we Can trust what’s going forward,” said GSC Spokesperson Bill Boswell.

The Government Street Collaborative was formed to maintain the history of Government Street and nearby neighborhoods. In 2019, they came to an agreement to protect 87 of the live oak trees as part of the Broad Street project.

“We did agree that we would keep them informed on the Broad Street project and try to preserve as many of the trees as possible,” said Chief of Staff James Barber.

Spokesperson Bill Boswell says the agreement was being followed until about two weeks ago when the GSC was told that three trees near Broad and Government may need to be removed. Boswell says his group tried to work with the city to find a way to save the trees.

“The city never contacted us never replied to our concerns or our proposals,” said Boswell. “This past Friday I witnessed the destruction of these trees.”

Chief of Staff James Barber says the city did a hydro excavation survey which showed that the root systems of the trees had grown 12 to 14 feet into the roadbed.

“Before we could complete the project we would have had to remove those which would have damaged the trees to The extent that they would not have survived,” said Barber.

Barber says there should have been another follow-up after the original meeting which led to last week’s outrage. Both sides are aiming for better communication as the project moves forward. Those who live near the site say they love the trees as much as anyone, but they understand some of them might have to go to move things along.

“Sometimes you have to sacrifice things to make an improvement,” added Ryan.

It’s unclear if more trees will have to come down as part of the project but Chief Barber says they’ll keep evaluating the root systems to make sure as the construction work moves farther down Broad Street. Meanwhile, Boswell says Mayor Sandy Stimpson has agreed to meet the the Government Street Collaborative on July 5th.

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