In the middle of record summer heat, at least one Killeen resident is irked that the city is cutting down shade trees in her neighborhood as part of a sidewalk project.
“This situation is so devastating because now the whole block has no trees,” said Lucinda Frazier, a resident of the northeast Killeen neighborhood. “Why would anyone want to destroy so many trees?”
Frazier said folks walking in the neighborhood including Gray Drive and Culp Avenue would stop under the trees during walks to cool off.
The trees are in the right-of-way belonging to the city, but Frazier and her mother had become attached to the trees they could see out of the living room window.
“Now Mom doesn’t want to even look outside,” she said.
Frazier said the city did not give residents advanced notice or an explanation: People just looked outside and realized stumps had taken the place of trees.
“It’s probably so no one would be able to state their opinion or ask questions to stop this,” Frazier said. “This is a sad situation in my opinion.”
A city spokeswoman said 53 trees, mostly cottonwoods, have or will be removed as crews repair damaged sections of sidewalks and driveways.
“This project is to restore connectivity of sidewalks in the area for pedestrian safety,” said Hilary Shine, City of Killeen spokeswoman. “When sections of sidewalk lift and break, separations occur that pose trip and fall hazards to pedestrians. Repairing the sidewalk to a smooth walking surface involves removing the cause of the damage, which in this case is trees.”
She said the shallow root systems have caused the roots to grow under sidewalks, eventually breaking and separating the concrete.
“Trees that are affecting the sidewalks will be removed,” she said. "In order to repair the sidewalks and to ensure they will last, some trees must be removed.”
Shine said removing the trees was the only option.
“The roots have to be removed to reconstruct the sidewalks, and the damage to the roots would be so significant that it is unlikely the trees could survive,” she said.
The project, which started at the end of April, is possible with $298,141 from a Community Development Block Grant, Shine said. The contractor has around nine months to complete the work.
She said the city has been a member of Tree City USA for 11 years. Tree City USA is an Arbor Day Foundation program. (Harker Heights and Fort Hood also are listed as Tree City USA communities.)
“The city recognizes the value trees provide in our community,” Shine said. “We hope that the residents in the area will find the investment in sidewalk improvements valuable to their quality of life.”