FDOT to replace all 35 crape myrtle trees removed in road construction on U.S. 301

By YVETTE C. HAMMETT

Crape myrtle trees, just beginning to bloom this week, along U.S. 301 north of Gibsonton Drive / Boyette Road. The Florida Department of Transportation has agreed to replace 35 mature trees that were removed to create a new turning lane. MITCH TRAPHAGEN PHOTO

For every one of the 35 mature crape myrtle trees recently removed along U.S. 301 to make way for a new turn lane, a new one will go in, compliments of the Florida Department of Transportation.

The Greater Riverview Chamber of Commerce, working with Hillsborough County Commissioner Stacy White and his staff, convinced FDOT to pay for new trees and installation.

About 80 trees were initially planted 15 years ago, thanks to a community beautification effort. Since then, local businesses stepped up to maintain them when the county’s budget slumped during the Great Recession, beginning in 2007.

Riverview Chamber Executive Director Tanya Doran estimates the trees and their maintenance have cost about $72,000.

Bob Esposito, government affairs liaison for FDOT District 7 told White’s legislative aide, David Garcia, that the mature trees will go in when the new median is completed for the turn lane. He gave no specific date for completion of the road work.

The turn lane is being added to accommodate a new charter school, Bridge Prep Academy, at 6211 S. U.S. 301.

Doran said the school was not at all interested in paying to replace the trees, and several arborists told her there would be only a 50-50 chance the trees would survive, had they been moved, due to their size.

Esposito said the trees will be 15- to 18-feet tall, about the same as the trees that had to be removed. The FDOT will maintain the trees for the first month or so to help establish the root systems, then maintenance will be up to the chamber.

Garcia said there may be neighborhood grant money available to the Riverview chamber to add shrubbery around the new trees.

“The responsibility for maintenance, relocation, replacement, etc. is with Hillsborough County,” Esposito told Garcia in an e-mail. “The department is partnering with the county and chamber in this instance.”

David Botello from FDOT said his agency had made similar deals with other communities where road work has uprooted landscaping, when the community comes to them with a proposal.

Doran said chamber representatives and some who were initially responsible for getting the trees planted attended a recent county commission meeting to ask for help in replacing them.

Richard Bailey, one of the people who initially helped get the trees in place, said recently that he is happy the state is stepping in. He said every time a road project comes up, it seems landscaping is destroyed. Bailey said it was difficult to initially get approval for the trees, and he was distressed when he heard they were coming out.

Riverview almost lost the trees during the Great Recession when the county’s budget tanked and funds for landscape maintenance were cut. That is when local businesses stepped up and sponsored trees along U.S. 301.

Crape myrtles, in pink, lavender and other colors, bloom throughout the summer months. “They’re real beauties,” Bailey said.

Doran said the trees were important to the community because they provide a picturesque drive through the historic center of Riverview.

Comments