July 30, 2008

Road Paving Project Brings Tree Limbs Down, Residents’ Ire Up

By Patrick Donohue, The Beaufort Gazette, S.C.

Jul. 30--If a tree falls in Beaufort -- or at least part of one -- everyone hears it.

To prepare for an upcoming $3.57 million project to repave parts of Ribaut Road and U.S. 21, S.C. Department of Transportation trimmed back low-hanging tree limbs on a section of Ribaut Road this week, drawing the ire of residents upset with the haphazard nature of the work being done.

"They were using a buzzboom, and that is a completely inappropriate tool to be putting into live oaks," Ribaut Road resident Mike Brant,said of the tool with an extendable arm and multiple buzz saws. "There's no care, no finesse. It was just a complete bushwhacking. They were showing a complete, reckless disregard for the health of those trees."

Brant wasn't alone in his concern for the trees. Beaufort city manager Scott Dadson said the city received several calls from residents upset about DOT's methodology.

"We went ahead and talked with the DOT and told them that we would use our tree trimming service to finish up some of the trees, understanding how sensitive our residents are about trees," he said.

Far from an environmentalist, Brant said protecting the live oaks that form a bountiful canopy over Ribaut Road is comparable to protecting what makes Beaufort -- and the American South -- special.

"I'm not a tree-hugger, but I grew up in the Lowcountry looking at live oaks and Spanish moss, and for me, that's part of the allure and the charm of the South," he said.

The trees were being cleared to allow overhead clearance for trucks and other paving equipment that will be needed when DOT resurfaces Ribaut Road from the Technical College of the Lowcountry to Boundary Street later this year, said Robert Clark,DOT spokesman.

"The crews are clearing out limbs that are low-hanging that were being struck by trucks to prepare for that road to be resurfaced," Clark said. "Some of that milling equipment and the equipment we need to resurface the road is pretty tall."

Starting in late August, DOT will begin work on a federally funded project to resurface parts of Ribaut Road and U.S. 21, said Robert McFee,DOT engineer.

DOT will begin the project by repaving a section of U.S. 21 between Detour Road in Seabrook, just before the Whale Branch bridge, and Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort. That portion of the project is expected to take about three weeks, McFee said.

After that, crews will begin night work to repave Ribaut Road. The project is expected to be completed by April.


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