SUMMERVILLE -- For two miles from Old Dorchester State Historic Site nearly to Bacons Bridge Road, Dorchester Road seemed to turn into an alcove, a pastoral two-lane framed by centuries-old live oaks. For commuters on their way home it was like a sigh of relief after a harried day.
A dozen or so grand live oaks that line the road are now coming down. They are among dozens of oaks and other grand trees being felled in the path of a project to widen the two-lane road to five lanes from just past Trolley Road to U.S. Highway 17A outside Summerville.
Everybody knew it was coming -- the plans were laid out two years ago, the stakes have been in the ground for months. But the shock of it has people gaping as they drive past. One nearby resident hung a sign reading "Say Goodbye to our 200 year old trees" on the bole of one of the oaks at an Ashborough subdivision entrance.
The plantation-era trees and their legacy had one fatal flaw: They ended up in the right-of-way of the road. In some cases, before a grand oak or another large tree is taken down, alternatives have to be considered, the loss has to be mitigated by planting other trees or contributing to a "tree bank" to save other grand trees. But those local laws carry an exemption for trees in the right-of-way.
The only heritage these trees will leave is an ageless patina in somebody's cabinetry. At least some of the wood will go to a specialty cabinet maker, said Ervin Lambert, president of L & L Contractors, the company overseeing the trees' removal.
"Oh, I guess that's good they're not going to burn it," Fred Weickhardt of Kings Grant said, a little disgusted. Weickhardt, himself a cabinet maker, rides the road every day. "But it's just a disgrace. Those trees were planted by colonists. I don't think the trees had to come down, because they're way over on the side of the road."
But no, they couldn't -- at least not very easily. The wedge the road travels between Ashborough and Ashborough East is so narrow that sound walls will be built between the new road and the homes.
"I hate it, I really do. You can't get 200-year-old trees back," said Dorchester County Councilman Jay Byars, who lives in Ashborough East. "I'm not sure that much more could have been done about the trees. When you're going as wide as they are, there just isn't much space. I'm not sure the design could have changed that much."
Byars recruited arborist Mike Russell of Natural Directions to see if the trees could be moved. But moving an oak of that scale can cost $50,000. And the chance that it will survive the move is poor, Russell said.
Cabinetry isn't what anyone would have wanted to see happen to the oaks. But, "if we can do something so they don't end up in a fireplace," Byars said, "at least somebody will get good use out of them."
Reach Bo Petersen at 937-5744 or follow him on Twitter at @bopete.