PORTAGE | The city will begin removing some of the trees from the area of Central Avenue this fall trying to save them.
It has been a decade-long struggle for Portage, which once planned for Central Avenue between Willowcreek and Hamstrom roads to be a tree-lined corridor.
Portage officials will either have to abandon those plans or spend a significant amount of money.
At this week's Redevelopment Commission meeting, Director of Public Works A.J. Monroe told commission members many of the trees are dying. The problem is a lack of maintenance and an abundance of street salt.
Monroe said this isn't the first time the city has tackled the issue since trees were initially planted along Central Avenue as part of the city's downtown redevelopment plan. Several trees have died and been replaced over the years.
The options, he said, would either be to irrigate the parkway or remove and relocate the trees that are doing poorly. The trees doing well would remain. The cost to install an irrigation system on both sides of Central Avenue would be about $120,000.
The commission approved the relocation of stressed trees and asked for additional information about the long-term cost of irrigation and the cost to replant the trees that are removed.
"We have to decide if we want that look or not," commission member Susan Kelly-Johnson said. Kelly-Johnson's law office is along the corridor and the trees in front of her office are doing well.
"It's not magic. We just water them," she said.
Kelly-Johnson said businesses in the city are required to appropriately landscape their property and the city should live up to the same requirements.
"I go to other cities and towns. They have trees and they use salt. I feel like our downtown deserves a better look," member and City Councilperson Sue Lynch said.
Lynch also questioned the health of trees in parkways along Pan Am Boulevard. Many are also dying.
Monroe said they may also be the responsibility of the city, but not the Redevelopment Commission.
Member Steve Nelson questioned the cost and asked for details on the "full package" of removing and replacing trees and an irrigation system before the commission makes a final decision.