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Hartselle's trees face ax
State planning removal of Bradford Pears on U.S. 31 median

By Deangelo McDaniel
DAILY Staff Writer 340-2469

HARTSELLE — The Alabama Department of Transportation apparently will cut down the Bradford pear trees in the median of U.S. 31 in Hartselle.

"If the trees do not meet safety standards, we will have to deal with them," Division I Engineer Johnny Harris said.

Trees that obstruct view, are larger or have the potential to grow a trunk larger than 4 inches in diameter will be removed, Harris said.

"I have not seen the order from the state, but our maintenance people have been contacted," Harris said.

For almost 15 years, Hartselle has had Bradford pears in the median on U.S. 31 from city limit to city limit.

City workers who drive large trucks and some school bus drivers have complained about the trees obstructing vision, but the council has taken no action.

Harris said field workers from DOT's Guntersville office will inspect the trees in Hartselle.

He said they do not have a deadline to remove the trees, but noted that the "sooner we do it, the sooner we can create a safer driving environment."

For at least 10 years, the Hartselle Beautification Association has trimmed and maintained the trees.

"I've had mixed emotions from residents, but it seems like we don't have any choice but to remove them," Association Director Carolyn Wallace said.

"Nobody wants to see anybody get hurt or save the trees if it's going to be a hazard," she added.

The campaign to make rights of way safer is a statewide effort, according to Harris.

DOT has already started to remove trees in its third division, which includes Jefferson, St. Clair, Blount, Shelby and Walker counties.

Mayor Dwight Tankersley said he hates to see the trees cut because of the beauty they add to the U.S. 31 corridor.

"But, if the state has determined that they are a safety hazard, I understand," he said.

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