Large trees lining a quiet Miami Springs canal bank gave little warning when they cracked and fell recently along the 500 block of Esplanade Drive.
“My role as the city arborist is not only to preserve trees but to also recognize and take action when there is a real potential for loss of property or imminent danger to human life,” said Public Works Director Tom Nash. “This section of canal has never been maintained and was taken over by non-native invasive trees.”
Trees spontaneously cracked and fell near a section of the canal, officials said, that is frequented by joggers and bicyclists. The city “proactively” mowed down a once-lush tree canopy at the site, which borders the golf course and hugs one of Miami Springs most prominent streets, Deer Run Drive.
The “invasive” tree species, Nash said, included Florida holly, melaleuca, schefflera and Norfolk Island pines. Nash added that water flow in the canal was disrupted by the trees, which in turn attracted “salmonella-carrying” rats, raccoons and iguanas.
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“I hate to hear bulls--- that certain trees are dangerous or can attract pests,” said Don Tiff, a 30-year resident. “That is just an excuse to remove them.”
Along with nuisance trees, Tiff said, the city has also removed trees native to Florida, jeopardizing the “tree city” status it has held since 1994.
“They even removed native sabal and royal palms,” said Tiff. “We need to save our trees.”
The city acknowledges that “other” trees have been removed. However, this was done as a precaution because of erosion along the canal bank that presented a safety hazard.
Another safety hazard along the Esplanade Drive canal has been a lack of guard rails. The canal runs from North Royal Poinciana Boulevard to the golf course. Last January, a resident at an open forum described how she was unable to make a “three point turn” and ended up in the Esplanade Drive canal.
In the last 10 years, police estimate that “8 to 10 vehicles” have driven into the same canal including spots near the Baptist church, tennis courts and the library.
“We're currently in process of drafting a recommendation to council for their consideration of partial and full guard rail coverage,” City Manager Ron Gorland said Thursday.
So far, the city has spent about $12,500 on the Esplanade Drive project: $9,000 for tree removal and $3,500 to replace lighting, officials said. However, officials were unable to cite examples or give estimates for private property damage caused by falling trees.
Across town, the city in January embarked on a $2,000,000 project to address Esplanade Drive canal bank erosion issues from North Royal Poinciana Boulevard to Westward Drive. Once the projects are completed, the city plans to replant various trees, including one oak tree, along the canal banks.
The city invites residents to speak for or against the canal bank projects, as well as other issues, during the open forum at the next council meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, March 14, at City Hall, 201 Westward Dr.