WILMINGTON, NC — Tuesday, Wilmington City Council voted unanimously to remove 25 of the oaks trees that make up the Market Street canopy as you enter downtown.
“Once you start losing large limbs, you’ve got heart rot, you’ve got serious decay, structural issues in that tree, it becomes a public safety issue,” said New Hanover County Arboretum Director Al Hight.
The oaks that shade Market St. near downtown have stood for almost eighty years. But after numerous hurricanes, a few traffic accidents, and just natural decay, city leaders have deemed many of the trees a safety hazard.
Now the city will remove and replace 25 of the trees, but that will still have a drastic effect on the landscape of the area as the new trees grow.
“There will be a period when the canopy will not be as lush nor as rich as it is right now but that’s the life cycle of a tree,” said George Edwards of the Historic Wilmington Foundation. “A tree does not come fully formed.”
People we spoke with along Market St. say they would rather keep the trees and take their chances.
“It’s definitely a risk but, at the same time, lightning could strike you walking down the street,” said Market St. resident Jon Olson.
“I think the trees add to the ambience of an old southern town. Its kind of cool when you come in to wilmington you see those old oaks over the road,” said fellow resident Dennis Mathis.
But while there may be some temporary disappointment, experts agree the plan will be worth it in the long run.
“I think by taking that long term view, this canopy is going to be stronger, and its going to be better, and will make this neighborhood and this area just as attractive as it always has been,” said Edwards.
The city plans to replace the oaks with a variety that usually remain healthy for hundreds of years.