Matson Street trees get a reprieve

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By Johnathan Ryan

KERSHAW – A majority of the Matson Street trees might escape the chainsaw. After an executive session Monday night, Kershaw Town Council voted unanimously to halt the tree cutting except for seven trees deemed dead by S.C. Forestry Commission Urban Forester Lois Edwards.

About 10 people spoke during citizens comments to protest the tree cutting.

A group of people wanting to save the trees located in the historic area of Kershaw had asked for Edwards’ assessment of the health of the trees.

The supporters say earlier suggestions from the S.C. Department of Transportation to the town on the trees’ health were incorrect.

“The information provided was false and was not from an expert,” said Sonja Poole, who opposed the town’s approach to cutting down the trees.

Edwards reviewed the health of nearly 70 trees on Matson Street on Monday, including the 25 the town had marked for destruction due to either death, poor health, threat to sidewalks or obstruction to motorists. Edwards gave an initial report and is working on a final report.

“Now we can let them do their studies and we can do ours,” said Councilman Eddie Coates after the executive session, with Edwards’ report laying in front of the council members.

The vote after executive session allows for a review period of 30 days to determine the number of trees to eventually come down. Council is expected to take action at the next council meeting in June.

Of the 25 trees the town and an S.C. Department of Transportation official marked for destruction, Edwards said that four were dead. The rest were considered healthy, as were those outside the marked 25, except for three.

“See, we were pretty sure she would only come up with a few that are dead,” said Denise Hegler after the meeting, who also spoke during citizens’ comments.

Edwards’ report said a tree may be considered healthy but it can still be structurally unsound, which was the town’s concern about falling limbs. Edwards suggested pruning healthy trees where needed.

“As stated before, you cannot predict a failure of a tree, as it is not an exact science,” Edwards said in her report.

Of the 25 marked for destruction, SCDOT said some were considered dead or in bad health. Some were considered an impediment to motorists’ view while driving on and around Matson Street.

Some still were considered bad for sidewalks running along the street, which have been warped by the trees’ roots. Some trees possess a combination of those characteristics.

Edwards’ report said the roots of living trees should not be cut, because it would compromise the structure to a dangerous point. The town was going to do that to some trees to spare further damage to sidewalks.

“If the roots are damaged or cut on any of these street trees, it will cause the tree to be structurally at risk of failure,” the report said of the healthy trees considered in “decline” but not a “severe risk” at this time along Matson Street. Officials and the tree supporters agree that the tree issue is a complex problem. Tree supporters suggested the mayor appoint a beautification commission to guide preservation and planting efforts.

The group recommmended five people, Denise Hegler, Joan Clyburn, Peg Bryson, Sonja Poole and Dr. Danny Blackwell to be on the committee. Some sugested they call themselves the “Tree Huggers of Kershaw.”

Contact reporter Johnathan Ryan at 416-8416