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Date of Issue: February 15, 2007

Bradenton Beach tree removal continues to draw criticism

conquina pic
Coquina Beach Trail turnaround
Workers grade the way for the Coquina Beach Trail at its turnaround just west of the Longboat Bridge in Bradenton Beach. Islander Photo: Paul Roat

Islanders have been vocal in their criticism of a pathway on the west side of Gulf Drive in Bradenton Beach from Fifth Street South to the Longboat Bridge.

Initial plans for the pathway, dubbed the Coquina Beach Trail, called for removal of 37 Australian pine trees. Last-minute changes to the plan upped the total number of trees to be toppled to 66, many in the Cortez Beach area.

Australian pines are viewed as beautiful landscape by some, noxious exotics by others.

John Molyneux of Holmes Beach and the founder of the group Stop Taking Our Pines, presented a statement to the city last year regarding pine trees. "It is a sign of the arrogance of the committee that they have failed to acknowledge objections to their plan," he wrote. "Forty-year-old trees have been sacrificed in the name of progress, the construction of a blacktop macadam pathway. There is little consideration for the environment, the wildlife or the aesthetics of the landscape.

"We ... strongly object to any plan that includes the removal of Australian pines. Beautification should enhance the existing character of the area, not tear it down and rebuild to a new 21st century utilitarian formula.

"There are those who concern themselves over the damage, which could result from a hurricane, and use this as an excuse to remove these fine mature trees. First and foremost, in the event of a hurricane, prior to its arrival, it is expected that residents will have evacuated the area and therefore the blocking of escape routes by trees is erroneous. Reality is, we can expect the hurricane to spread debris. Very little either manmade or of nature is hurricane proof."

Anna Maria City resident Carol Codella wrote, "How many people involved with the removal of the beautiful pine trees live on the Island? How would you feel if someone made decisions about the decor in your home and just removed what they didn’t like? That is how a lot of Islanders feel."

"Who cares about where they came from?" she asked. "Someone smarter than the people taking them down brought them in for a reason. They block the wind, they provide much-needed shade, and provide homes for birds and animals alike."

Anna Maria resident Susan Hatch also objected to the tree removal.

"So they take out these trees that at least have some root system and replace them with trees that only have a root ball," she said. "Do you get the feeling that whomever has the authority to do this is just picking away at these trees until they are satisfied that all or most are gone?

"Shame on you for doing this and shame on you for not being able to at least have some discussion. After all, as a taxpayer, I am paying for the pleasure, not this destruction. Please, will you stop?"

The path will be 8 feet wide, made of asphalt, with rope and bollards to keep cars from interacting with pedestrians, bikers and skaters. Billy Hay Excavation received the $392,000 contract to do the work, which is funded by Manatee County and the city of Bradenton Beach. The trail will feature bike racks, water fountains and benches. There will also be tree plantings and landscaping to replace those pines that have been removed.