SPRINGFIELD — Seven sweetgum trees were removed last week at 700 1st St. last week to make way for sidewalk replacement and new trees. The sweetgums have grown so large that they have damaged the sidewalk by raising panels and cracking parts of the walking surface, according to city officials.
“These trees have received many complaints due to their brittle nature and damaging effects on the infrastructure city-wide, which was the situation at the 1st Street location,” according to Ben Gibson, surface operations manager for the City of Springfield.
The Operations Division of Development and Public Works was contracted for the removal of the trees and is working with Park Place Town Homes for the replacement of the sidewalk.
“The property management at this location was in need of replacing/repairing the sidewalk abutting their property and restoring it to ADA compliance,” Gibson said. “The only feasible way to do this and ensure no further damage to infrastructure was to work through a process of tree removal and replacement.”
He noted that the City is not planting sweetgum trees anymore because they require a large area to grow.
“If they don’t have room to grow, the root system will start damaging sidewalks and street surfaces around them,” Gibson said.
Additionally, these trees were planted directly adjacent to a parking lot, and because the branches become brittle in sweetgums, they frequently drop branches on cars.
Gibson said that the trees will be replaced with a “more appropriate species” for the area in the dormant season after the sidewalk areas are reconstructed.
Area residents have complained about the trees being chopped down, noting a loss of much-needed shade and pleasant aesthetic, in addition to a loss of “a friendly and calming landscape” just across the street from Meadow Park.
Gibson said the City is not in the practice of removing trees just for the sake of removing them, and they are only removed when they pose an issue, are dead, or are dying.
“The city planted 100 trees last year in an effort to replace trees that were removed because of die off and also trees that came down during storms,” he said. “Additionally, we have many projects in the works to identify public trees in asset management programming so we can better understand how to serve the community with increasing the urban canopy.”
This project is being funded through a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) to replace dead trees, trees that are damaging public infrastructure, and to increase Springfield’s urban tree canopy using tree equity mapping throughout all parts of the City.