My thoughts

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A July proposal to weaken New Hanover County’s tree-protection rules was thankfully not acted upon by the county commissioners. The move brought forward by a developer was to weaken rules preventing developers from illegally clearing land of trees for development and saying “we didn’t know” after the fact. The developer in question, who had been cited for illegally clear land without a permit, was trying to pull the “whoops-I’m-not-from-here” card and asking the county for an ordinance amendment.

IMG_20140705_071315832The rules say post clearing development permits can be delayed by the county for up to five years, if the action by the developer in clearing the land is willful.

Commissioner Beth Dawson said she had problems agreeing to changes to an ordinance brought to them by someone caught violating that ordinance. She said it would send the wrong message to those who would do and say, “sorry, I didn’t know,” afterwards.

She was correct.

And a proposal that a developer could lessen the consequences by making a donation to the county tree improvement fund was nothing short of ludicrous.

Our tree heritage is not held dear enough by all, even though all do benefit from it.

The tree, shrubbery, grass and garden wall beautification project taking place on the island side of the drawbridge to Wrightsville Beach is hard to miss.

Consider it payback from the NCDOT for months of agonizing bridge closings.

Now residents, property owners and visitors will have an appropriate welcome to the island. The DOT is footing the bill for the $45,000 beautification, designed and planned by its roadside environmental unit with input from the Town of Wrightsville Beach, and a contractor has been engaged to do the work.

Enhancing existing trees, the beautification will place drought- and salt-tolerant native plants and additional live oak trees in the gateway to the town areas from the eastern edge of the Heide Trask Drawbridge to just past the Causeway Drive and Keel Street intersection where U.S. Hwy 74 and 76 divide opposite the post office.

The beautification includes a series of edged plant beds and new tree plantings. The edges of those medians will be outlined with cobblestone pavers and Bermuda grass sod. Other small plants included in the median areas will be dwarf yaupon, red oleander, Little Richard abelia, Japanese yew, daylily, juniper, muhly grass and sage. The larger trees installed will be holly, crape myrtle and live oaks. Several of the garden walls have already been constructed along the corridor from the bridge to this area. These garden walls are about to be planted with similar landscape plantings.

Soon we are told the DOT will remove the palm trees that line the north side of Wrightsville Avenue on the mainland side of the draw bridge, a move that received much ridicule when the palm trees were installed.

Most recently this strip of land was used as a staging area by the DOT for the two-and-one-half-year-long drawbridge renovation. When American Bridge removed the construction trailer from the equipment staging area, it left a pretty unsightly mess, including a couple of big piles of soil now covered in weeds.

Even though a majority of the trees look healthy, a DOT spokesman said the palm trees are all diseased and will be removed, the ground treated in October. Five new live oak trees will be planted closer to the sidewalk to allow room for the multiuse path the City of Wilmington plans to construct on that side of the Wrightsville Ave. A NCDOT crew will then install a hardscape landscape plan around the path to mimic the Wrightsville Beach side of the drawbridge.

In years to come, those live oaks will be priceless.

The beauty, durability and desirability of the live oak trees are undeniable; a thing of immense beauty providing a home and shelter to, at a minimum, squirrels and birds, live oak trees shade our streets, sidewalks and parking lots. In a world getting hotter every year, more shade in these locations is fast becoming a daytime necessity.

By night, a canopy tree lighting proposal from the Wrightsville Beach Foundation in partnership with the Harbor Island Garden Club will, if approved by the DOT, also enhance the gateway to the island town.

The groups propose to install on both island sides of the drawbridge three white LED lights per live oak tree, pending an encroachment agreement between the town and the DOT. The hope is this can be granted and the lights installed in time to light up the town beginning with this year’s N.C. Holiday Flotilla. Replacing green and red up lighting, which has drawn sharp criticism for its lackluster effect, by restoring white lighting, installing new lighting at the Welcome to Wrightsville Beach sign and adding Christmas pole lights supported by a donation by the garden club will, dare I say, usher the townspeople and its guests into joyous light.

After years of orange and white barrels, new oaks and white lights will be a beautiful sight.

 

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