Residents want to save old oaks along Rockledge Drive
Officials say low-hanging branches pose risk to emergency vehicles
ROCKLEDGE, Fla. – A number of stately, decades-old oak trees adorning Rockledge Drive — which many believe to be one of the most picturesque drives in Brevard County, if not Florida — could be on the chopping block due to a plan by Brevard County’s Department of Public Works.
In a letter to residents last month, county officials said branches need to be pruned and trees need to be removed for “garbage trucks, school buses, and emergency vehicles to safely drive along Rockledge Drive to perform their job,” News 6 partner Florida Today reported.
But residents aren’t happy. They’re fighting back with letters, telephone calls and a petition to have the tree plan axed, and have been successful of putting the county's plan on hold — at least for the moment.
Rockledge Drive, which leads into Cocoa Village, is known for its tonier homes and open views of the Indian River. It’s used by runners and bicyclists and was once featured in Delta Air Lines' Sky magazine for its eye-catching scenery. The bending oaks, which provide a canopy of sorts for much of Rockledge Drive, have aided the road's reputation as a scenic byway.
“All of the trees here are so majestic and wonderful,” said Michelle Maricic, one of the residents leading the charge against the county’s plan. “We don’t want to lose any of them."
Some of the trees, Maricic said, are between 100 and 300 years old and it would be tragic to lose any of them. In her 25 years living along Rockledge Drive, Maricic said she has never had a problem with the tress impinging large vehicles.
Pruning and possible removal of some trees was scheduled begin after Jan. 15, but actions by Rockledge Drive residents seem to have provided the oaks at least a 30-day reprieve while officials reassess the plan.
"We are still evaluating the situation and determining what needs to be done," said Andy Holmes, Brevard County’s Public Works director.
The initial decision to remove the trees goes back a few months, said Holmes, following concerns from solid waste officials who claimed their trucks were being damaged by low-hanging branches.
“We recognize that the trees and foliage along Rockledge Drive are a significant community asset, and we are sensitive to the needs of both the community and the service providers that need to have adequate access,” Holmes said. "With that said, Public Works is going to put the tree trimming activities on hold until we have fully evaluated the needed trimming, and the needs of the community. It is important to all of us that we achieve an acceptable balance between all of the stakeholders' needs, including the needs of the residents and users of the roadway.”
Amy Boyson, a Waste Management representative, said the company is "aware of the neighbors' concerns and are in conversations with the county."
The delay is welcome news Maricic said, but she wondered what’s next.
“It doesn’t mean the plan is going to stop,” she said. “It’s a very political way of having this go away for a while and then all of sudden you’ll see some crews cutting down the trees without notice. We all know how this works.”
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