Dallas' New Trees Dying During Watering Debate

Debate of who is to water thirsty trees continues

By Ken Kalthoff
|  Thursday, Aug 9, 2012  |  Updated 3:27 PM CDT
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Dallas' New Trees Dying During Watering Debate

Texas Forest Service

"On the left: A living post oak tree that is beginning to sprout green leaves. On the right: A dead post oak with brown leaves." -- Texas Forest Service.

Hundreds of trees planted along newly widened Samuel Boulevard are dying in the scorching summer heat as the city of Dallas debates who was supposed to water them.

Neighbor Carolyn Johnson went to Wednesday's Dallas City Council meeting to complain about the waste of taxpayer money paid to install the trees and the unsightly blemish on her neighborhood.

"The trees are dying and we are trying to do improvements in our area and when we step one step forward we go back, it seems, another," Johnson said. 

Around 600 crepe myrtle trees were planted for about $230,000 after a $17.7 million project to widen Samuel Boulevard to four lanes, according to Texas Department of Transportation spokeswoman Michelle Releford.

The trees were intended to beautify the 2.5-mile stretch of new roadway between Ferguson Road and Buckner Boulevard.

The state paid another $33,000 for the first two years of irrigation and maintenance for the trees and then Dallas was supposed to take over tree maintenance this spring Releford said.

The state managed the lengthy Samuel Boulevard construction project because 80 percent of the money came from the federal government.

The city paid the rest.

"It was a lot of inconvenience for the neighborhood and we had to jump through hula hoops," Councilman Dwaine Caraway said.
 
Johnson showed council members pictures of how the dying trees look now.

"And to see how that is deteriorating, we're not going to allow that to take place," Caraway said.

Dallas public works director Rick Galceran said the city has been trying to find another partner to pay for the maintenance.

"We gave many opportunities for the community to take over," Galceran said.

Council Member Carolyn Davis said it is unreasonable to expect neighbors to care for hundreds of trees on such a long street.

Galceran promised that the city will now have the irrigation working properly within two weeks and water trucks could be used in the meantime.

City manager Mary Suhm also promised to return to the council next week with a plan to solve the problem, but it appears hundreds of the trees are already dead and it is unclear if Suhm's solution will replace them.

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