072717 Roads: Roundabout isn’t only threat to live oak
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Traffic is damaging portion of the oak’s root area not covered by pavement.

Roads: Roundabout isn’t only threat to live oak

By Charles Swenson
COASTAL OBSERVER

Traffic over the root zone of a live oak on Waverly Road will harm the health of a tree many residents want to protect from a construction project, according to a study done for Georgetown County.

The oak is on the corner of Waverly and Petigru Drive, a mismatched intersection that the county and the state Department of Transportation want to align. DOT proposed a roundabout, but said the oak would have to be cut down. That drew an outpouring of support, including a request from Gov. Henry McMaster that DOT look at ways to preserve the tree.

Georgetown County Administrator Sel Hemingway proposed DOT move the roundabout to avoid the tree. He also commissioned a study from Todd Stephenson of Total Tree Care about the health of the tree.

“It is my professional opinion that the current condition of the live oak tree in question was one of unkept good health,” he wrote.

But the tree won’t stay that way because of continued impact on its root system, Stephenson said.

Three quarters of the tree’s “critical root zone” is under the pavement. The remainder “had severe soil compaction,” Stephenson said.

He made three visits to the site. Most of the time there were vehicles and people on the roots within the critical zone, which is an area that extends about 25 feet from the trunk.

“There was a retail produce business operating directly on top of the tree’s CRZ, and patrons of that business were observed parking their vehicles and walking on the tree’s root system as they conducted their business,” Stephenson said.

The study concludes that it is “reasonable to expect that ongoing activity will cause the tree to lose its vigor and then enter a state of decline.”

He also pointed out that there are dead limbs in the tree canopy that are likely to fall and do damage.

The last point raised concern for Hemingway, who noted the tree is in the state right of way.

“If people consider that to be a tree with history they want to hang on to, then we’ve got to do a few things to protect it,” County Council Member Steve Goggans said.

Moving the proposed roundabout is the first step, he said. DOT is currently reviewing the project.

Goggans said there is no point in moving the roundabout if the tree is going to be allowed to die. But he said he remains optimistic. Stephenson did work at his house to restore the ground where a live oak’s root system was compacted.

“The tree is clearly healthy, but it’s suffering,” Goggans said.

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