BB denies Australian pine trim

Bradenton Beach commissioners, citing no pressing public safety issue, unanimously rejected a proposal to trim 19 Australian pines at Herb Dolan Park, the bayfront park on the city’s north end.

The trees are near the intersection of 25th Street and Avenue A, where the city this year completed a new kayak launch and made a series of improvements to the stormwater system.

Public works director Tom Woodard brought the tree-trimming proposal to the commission Sept. 15, along with an estimate from Casey’s Tree Service in Bradenton. The company’s preliminary numbers said the tree trimming would cost $125 per tree for a total $2,375.

Woodard said the Australian pines had not been trimmed in at least seven years, but that he was not an expert on whether they should or should not be cut.

“The last time I brought this forward, it was voted down,” Woodard said, adding that one resident in the neighborhood had requested the city trim — not remove — the trees.

“It really is just a visibility issue,” Woodard said.

A coalition of agencies in the state — from university labs to the county natural resources departments and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection — consider the Australian pine an invasive plant and recommend removal when possible.

The tree is non-native, introduced to the state about 100 years ago and originally from Australia. The DEP classifies the Australian pine as a Class 1 prohibited aquatic plant, and possession, collection, transportation, cultivation and importation of the tree is illegal without a permit.

Numerous studies have shown that the Australian pine’s prolific growth forms monocultures, threatening native habitats in Florida, especially in southern parts of the state.

The trees also can topple in storm events, a concern expressed last week by Bradenton Beach Commissioner Jan Vosburgh.

However, Vosburgh’s focus was not on the shade trees nestled in Herb Dolan Park but with the Australian pines along Gulf Drive, including one near Cortez Road that she said could threaten utility lines or block an evacuation route.

“We should take a look around the city,” Vosburgh suggested. Referring to recent storm events on the Atlantic Coast, she added, “The trees did more damage than anything.… We should be cutting trees where all the wires are.”

But at Herb Dolan park, Vosburgh and the other commissioners did not see the Australian pines posing an immediate threat and rejected the unbudgeted expense.

“If there were power lines there, I’d be in favor of it,” said Commissioner Ed Straight, who represents the area. “But to trim it back so it can grow back again, well, no. And there are a lot of wild animals that nest in those trees.”

Straight added, “I think the money would be better spent in evacuation areas.”

After a few more minutes of discussion, Mayor Bob Bartelt asked for a motion.

“There’s no danger,” the mayor said. “Just somebody wants a better view.”

The commission unanimously voted not to trim the trees.

In other business, the commission:

• Approved paying a $4,451 invoice from city attorney Ricinda Perry for July services.

• Approved an application for the Drift In, 120 Bridge St., to host an Anna Maria Island Privateers fundraiser from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. Nov. 5. The menu will include corn-on-the-cob, hamburgers, hot dogs, smoked mullet and grog.

• Approved paying a $29,873 invoice from Gator Grading for stormwater work on Avenue A and Avenue B.

• Approved paying a $2,065 invoice from Kern Construction for a message board at the Historic Bridge Street Pier and nearby dinghy dock. The message board was installed last year.

• Approved a proclamation of Peace Day at Anna Maria Elementary School. AME was set to celebrate on Sept. 21, after The Islander went to press this week.

• Approved paying a $3,542 radio maintenance fee to Manatee County.

The commission’s next regular meeting will be at 7 p.m. Oct. 6 at city hall.

The commission also will meet Sept. 21 for meetings on the 2011-12 budget, capital improvements and community redevelopment issues.

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