I have stayed out of the great I-26 DOT killing of the trees controversy but, as I am principally, along with many other good General Assembly members of the 1980s, responsible for most of the attractive median and roadside trees, I think it’s time to fess up.
I’ll try to make a long story short. When I first went to the state Senate in 1981, 1 was disappointed to see that thousands of acres along our interstates were being needlessly and expensively mowed, pavement to pavement and pavement to fence. Where swamp areas prevented this destruction, it was refreshing to see the natural beauty of the flora standing there.
Deciding to do something about it, I wrote some legislation and got it passed limiting mowing to 30 feet from the pavement along the interstates. I remember Sen. Phil Leventis from Sumter, a good environmentalist, being very helpful.
But getting compliance was not easy, as those contractors doing the mowing did not like their income being reduced, and they put some of their legislators up to killing the new law.
Every now and then, someone would slip an amendment into some bill going through to kill the legislation.
Thankfully, my environmental buddies in Columbia would tip me off, and I would frustrate their efforts. Gradually things settled down.
Naturally, I am amused at S.C. Department of Transportation contending that the mowing legislation did not apply to the trees. Getting the trees naturally from God and not from a nursery was what we intended. Not being mowed, we went from grass to weeds, from weeds to saplings and from saplings to the beautiful trees we now have.
When I returned from Congress and went back to the S.C. Senate, I was so happy to see how our legislation had transformed the ugly, barren roadsides and medians into beauty for travelers and refuge for small fauna and bird life.
In recognition and obedience to the law, communities seeking to have trees removed for special, local reasons, introduced legislation to exempt their areas from the law.
The town of Hardeeville comes to mind. Such requests were quickly granted by the General Assembly.
Clearly, what DOT is trying to do in killing the trees is illegal, and only the General Assembly can change that.
As is abundantly obvious, all DOT has to do is just erect its fences along the tree line.
Arthur Ravenel Jr.