Coral Gables

And the renovations begin: Trimmed Banyan trees on Granada Golf Course cause stir

The majestic string of Banyan trees on Granada Golf Course are being cut as part of renovations, which is upsetting to some residents in Coral Gables.
The majestic string of Banyan trees on Granada Golf Course are being cut as part of renovations, which is upsetting to some residents in Coral Gables. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

Coral Gables officials call the Granada Golf Course tree project a “routine trimming.” Residents call it “mutilation.”

Tuesday marked the second week of major renovations being done on the Granada Golf Course in Coral Gables. The bunches of banyan trees at the center of the fairways now stand above piles of trimmed branches, as construction workers and arborists move forward with a $500,000 rejuvenation plan of the historic greens.

The initiative is aimed at cutting back the trees and redoing the tees and fairways, as well as replacing rain shelters and reconfiguring cart paths. The project is scheduled to take about five months; the golf course will be closed during construction.

Funding for the Granada Golf Course Improvement Project, created by city staff, golf course designers, local residents and the golf community, is in the current capital budget.

In October, the city’s public works department held a series of community meetings about the project to primarily focus on whether the renovations would include a running path along the golf course’s perimeter. That question will be voted on by city commissioners.

The current controversy, which has prompted several residents to complain, is about the trees. Brook Dannemiller, the city’s landscape services director, said that the cuts might be a shock, but that they were “very much needed.”

“The limbs were so close to the ground you could barely see underneath,” he said. “Trees need to be trimmed regularly in order to maintain their structure. These trees haven’t been trimmed in more than 10 years, when they should be trimmed every two.”

He added that trimming them while the golf course is being renovated makes sense.

“We are not destroying the trees; we are not hurting them. In a couple years they will grow right back. We never cut them in the past because we would have had to close the golf course for safety reasons; that’s why it looks a little aggressive and a little shocking to people.”

The par 36, nine-hole course is located just outside downtown. Opened in 1923, it is the oldest operating nine-hole course in Florida.

Golf course arborists said Tuesday that about a third of the canopy was being trimmed. The chopped limbs will be recycled and used as aesthetic mulch when the golf course work is completed.

A representative for arbor company Trees Inc. who asked that his name not be used said the makeover will give golfers a better view, promote healthier grass and improve safety.

He said the tree canopy was so wide that it blocked sprinklers from full coverage, creating patches of dead grass. The canopy also caused golfers to alter their shots, creating a danger to cars and homes nearby.

Jack Thompson, a long-time golfer and Gables resident, said the banyans interfered with golfers, but that he thinks there was another alternative.

“The banyans over the decades have encroached so far that it made some of the holes not very playable because you would have to go so far left,” Thompson, 63, said. “This would have been the perfect time to redo the golf course, working around the trees. But instead, they are attacking the banyans. They could’ve seized the opportunity to redesign the golf course and preserve the banyans; trimming would have been minimal.”

Other residents turned to social media to express their views.

“I have always loved my City Beautiful of Coral Gables, but what has just transpired on the Granada Golf Course is disgusting to me,” longtime resident Patricia San Pedro wrote on Instagram. “For a city that requires permits just to change a light bulb outside of your house this is unconscionable.”

“There’s nothing wrong with trimming. This is mutilation,” San Pedro told the Miami Herald on Tuesday. She followed up with the hashtags: “#banyonmassacre #bathavendestroyed #shameful #citywasbeautiful.”

Dannemiller disagreed.

‘It’s routine maintenance; banyans are very fast-growing trees,” he said. “ It’s better for the long-term health of the trees and the golf course as a whole. It doesn’t hurt the tree. It’s like a haircut. The tree had hair all the way down to its waist, but now it’s up to its shoulders. And now it’s like shocking. Don’t worry, the tree just got a bob.”

Follow @MoniqueOMadanMH on Facebook; @MoniqueOMadan on Twitter.

Related stories from Miami Herald