Duke Energy line maintenance work on the last two live oak trees in the median of Live Oak Drive has not yet been rescheduled after a peaceful protest of about a dozen residents prevented crews from finishing the work March 18.
The crews moved on to perform work on others island streets, said Duke spokesperson Meghan Musgrave, but will return to Live Oak Drive.
Residents have offered to hire an independent arborist to complete the remaining work, subject to Duke’s approval, but Musgrave suggested the utility could not accept the offer.
“Duke Energy is responsible for maintaining our right-of-way and cutting back trees to meet our clearance . . . and after we meet our clearance within the right-of-way, residents are certainly able to hire an arborist after we conduct our portion of the work,” Musgrave said.
Live Oak residents understand the utility’s responsibility to maintain its property, said resident and former Wrightsville Beach Mayor David Cignotti, selected as the street’s liaison during ongoing negotiations, but think the crews can fulfill that goal without trimming so much from the trees’ canopies.
“We realize the need to maintain the power lines. Our problem is that we believe they can use more discretion and not trim them so radically. If you look around town, I think most citizens would agree, there are too many times when large trees are pruned as if they are bushes, and it’s taken away from the beauty of not just Wrightsville Beach, but the entire Wilmington area,” Cignotti said.
Residents hope to speak with a Duke representative before work continues to assure crews will approach the remaining trees as carefully as possible. Musgraves confirmed a representative “will be available to speak with residents” once a plan is in place.
Town officials have been working with Duke to determine how the remaining work will be completed, said Wrightsville Beach Mayor Bill Blair. He agreed, sending a representative before crews return to the street could alleviate tensions surrounding the situation.
Remaining work on Wrightsville Beach is expected to take two weeks to complete, Musgrave said, but weather conditions may impact the schedule. Duke representatives notified businesses along Wrightsville Avenue Wednesday of impending trimming in the Wrightsville Sound area.