Tree-trimming plan gets scrutiny

Trimming of trees near wires will take place along Mathis Ferry Road in Mount Pleasant.

MOUNT PLEASANT -- First it was the town's plan to cut down up to 21 trees on scenic Mathis Ferry Road. Now, residents are worried about the South Carolina Electric & Gas effort to prune an undetermined number of trees on the road starting Sunday.

Concerned residents want to know which trees will be cut back and how much they will be trimmed. "We're really trying to be non-combative. All we're looking for is for them to strike a balance," said I'On resident Cynthia Rosengren.

Rosengren, town arborist Eddie Bernard and the tree-trimming contractor will meet Friday to review the situation. They will do a "walk through" of trees encroaching on power lines.

"I think the thing that we are trying to work toward is when you have a stretch of highway that is designated scenic how can we do things differently?" Rosengren said.

SCE&G tree trimming is done periodically to ensure safety and improve reliability. "We'll take care of any limbs that are growing in the way of a power line," said Roxanne Argo, the utility public affairs strategist.

The tree trimming will be done Sept. 12 and Sept. 19. Town officials stressed that the SCE&G work is not part of the controversial town plan to remove up to 21 Mathis Ferry Road trees that a consultant identified as hazardous.

The tree-removal plan is on hold while the town gets more expert opinion on which trees are most in need of being cut down for safety reasons. A newly tweaked Mathis Ferry Road tree-removal plan is scheduled to go back to Town Council on Sept. 14 after being reviewed by the council Planning Committee.

The town will replant trees where it removes them and is looking at the cost difference between replacement trees that are 2 inches in diameter and those that are 4 inches in diameter.

Many residents who live along the road have expressed concern about trees being removed. It was unclear Tuesday how many people were concerned about the pruning. Rosengren said she will be the only homeowner meeting with Bernard and the utility contractor on Friday. "I really want the dynamic to be let's not overwhelm the poor person from SCE&G," she said.

The trees tagged for removal include a water oak that's 38 inches in diameter, a 30-inch sweet gum and a 33-inch live oak. Two live oaks, nine water oaks, six sweet gums and four laurel oaks are part of the recommended cuts. Opponents of the plan have put a sign in front a large oak that says, "Don't Kill Me."

The trees tagged for removal are hazardous because they exhibit symptoms such as rot, decay and cavities. There is concern that trees or branches may fall in strong winds or heavy rain. Paths and sidewalks extend all the way down Mathis Ferry Road, home to several schools, a library, a hospital and numerous neighborhoods, officials said.

The trees were identified by the Laurus Group, a consultant for the Mathis Ferry Road vegetation-management plan. The South Carolina Forestry Commission awarded the town a $21,000 grant to perform the work. The funds received for the work won't cover removal of all 21 trees, said Christiane Farrell, Planning Department director.

More than 175 people signed a petition in opposition to the tree removal.

Last year, the town received the Tree City USA award for the 20th consecutive year from the National Arbor Day Foundation. Since receiving the Tree City USA designation, the town has planted more than 4,500 trees, mostly live oaks, officials said.

Reach Prentiss Findlay at 937-5711 or pfindlay@postandcourier.com.