Environment

Tree loss

Forestry Dept not spared in road improvement works

BY KIMONE THOMPSON
Associate editor - features
thompsonk@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

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The road expansion project being executed on Constant Spring Road has already cost six trees — including the prized Jamaican mahogany — and two others are potentially at risk.

But the Forestry Department, which sits on lands at the corner of Constant Spring and Grove roads and is neighbour to the Constant Spring Tax office, insists that it will fight to ensure that there will be no other casualties.

Speaking with the Jamaica Observer after the awards event for its 80th Anniversary Mural Competition yesterday, CEO Marilyn Headley said the roadworks have so far cost the agency a Jamaican mahogany, three Honduras mahogany, and a sprawling, decades-old guango tree. Another Jamaican mahogany at the corner of the property and a West Indian locust, commonly called stinking toe, that hangs over onto Grove Road, might be next.

“Is hell and powder house over the stinkin' toe. It's not gonna happen,” Headley said emphatically.

“Where else in Kingston do you see a stinkin' toe?” she retorted when asked what was so special about the tree. The answer, she suggested, was “nowhere”.

“There are two in the office and they are big and old. They aren't going anywhere!” she reiterated.

As she explained it, the trees have been felled by the utility provider Jamaica Public Service (JPS) which is erecting poles on the Forestry Department's side of the road as part of the road improvement project.

“When they were going to do the road, NLA (National Land Agency) wrote us and told us that they had to move the fence in and we told them that we would have to move our shade house and our irrigation system as they would now be close to the road, but they built a little wall, and it turns out we didn't need to move them,” she said.

“Then JPS comes up and says they are putting the poles on our side of the road and they need 12 ft horizontal difference from any branch. So even though they weren't moving the fence to expand the road, they moved the trees because of the power lines,” Headley explained.

And while she has rationalised the loss of those six trees, and has plans to replant them, the conservator of forests is not prepared to lose any more.

“So now we see that they are putting another post on Grove Road, which they hadn't told us about before, but the discussion came up and somebody said they were going to cut the stinking toe tree, but we said, 'No, no, no! You can only trim that tree because we cannot lose that tree,' said Headley.

“We lost one critical one, the Jamaican mahogany, but we're going to replant it, and we're going to replace the Honduras mahogany with Jamaican mahogany,” she said, adding that the agency stands ready to offer seedlings to its neighbour, the Constant Spring Golf Club, which also lost several old trees.

“We will replant from seedlings to get back our serene, urban forest,” Headley said.

“In some places it's called progress; we call it loss of trees,” she added.

Meanwhile, the National Works Agency, which contracted the work to China Harbour Engineering Company, told the Observer that it does have plans to replace some of the trees removed in the process.

In a phone interview yesterday, project manager for Constant Spring, Keith Brown, acknowledged that trees offer a range of services, including soil retention, noise buffering, wind breaking, air purification, and water recycling. Still, he maintained that their removal was necessary.

“It's really heart-rending to see the trees being cut down, but it's difficult to transplant a 100-year-old tree. It's unfortunate, but it's part of the whole aspect of development,” he said.

“For replanting, we're initially targeting four apartment complexes where we've had to cut. They have indicated that the trees are important to them and one reason is that it reduces the noise from the traffic, so we've promised to replant those as soon as we're finished,” said Brown.

He didn't name the complexes, but Oaklands appears to be among them as the plot of land to the front which previously featured several sprawling trees, has been cleared.

“We're building the boundary walls higher and will replant the trees and have them grow back over time,” Brown said of the apartment complexes in question.

The expansion project is being undertaken on roughly four kilometres of road from Manor Park to the intersection with Dunrobin Avenue. Widening is also planned for the intersection of Constant Spring and King's House roads, as well as that of Eastwood Park and Red Hills roads.

The total amount of land to be claimed for the entire project is about an hectare, or two and a half acres, Brown disclosed.

There could be some marginal increase, however, as, according to Brown, in some cases entire properties will be subsumed.

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