Residents are raising concerns about three trees at the intersection of Jones Creek and Tiger Bend roads in southeast Baton Rouge that they believe are more than 100 years old but will be cut down Thursday as part of a road-widening project in the area.
The project began Sept. 25 and is in the clearing phase, said David Guillory, director of the East Baton Rouge Parish Department of Public Works.
The widening of Jones Creek Road from Tiger Bend to Coursey Boulevard, from three to five lanes with a common turn lane in the middle, is not part of the parish’s Green Light Plan for roads and related infrastructure improvements, Guillory said.
The trees, which are on the east side of Jones Creek Road near Woodlawn Middle School, are set to be cut down by Thursday morning, Guillory said.
Foy Crary, who lives on Surrey Court Avenue in the Tiger Bend Acres and Carriagewood Estates area, said she was driving on Jones Creek on Monday when she saw workers preparing to cut the trees.
Crary said she thinks the city-parish did not properly notify residents about the project. She said she was not made aware of any public forums about it.
Crary said her Metro Council representative, Joel Boe, told her he was aware of the project as far back as 2009 and that it was “too late” to do anything about it.
“It’s typical backhanded, back door, government people doing what they want to do,” Crary said.
The city-parish could have chosen to further widen the other side of the street to avoid razing the trees, Crary said.
“They’re just casting them (the trees) aside arbitrarily,” Crary said.
Donna Laird said she lives off Millerville Road but she and her mother often use a walking trail near the trees slated to be downed.
Laird said she is certain the trees are 100 years old.
“You know a 100-year-old live oak when you see one,” Laird said.
Laird said she began trying to call her Metro Council representative, Mike Walker, on Tuesday but has yet to get in touch with him.
Walker, a longtime councilman, is running for mayor-president.
Laird said the tree cutting makes her want to move to St. Tammany Parish, where live oak trees of a certain size cannot be cut down without the parish’s approval.
“Baton Rouge is becoming such an ugly, generic city,” Laird said. “Great cities do not cut down their great live oaks.”
Laird said limbs on one of the trees were cut Wednesday.
Guillory, the Public Works director, said the city-parish must give public notice for things like rezoning, but not for taking down trees.
“We don’t like taking down the old, beautiful trees, but sometimes when you’re building roads, that’s just what we have to do,” Guillory said.
Guillory said he is not aware of any parish ordinances regarding tree protection.
Jim Ferguson, the city-parish’s chief engineer, said the city-parish chose not to further widen the other side of the road because there are major utilities underground, such as a sewer main.
“As unfortunate as it is, some trees do have to be cut down,” he said.
Guillory noted that a large number of trees have been taken down on Staring Lane as part of road-widening efforts there.
“Anytime we cut down old trees, you are going to have folks that are against that,” Guillory said.
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