County Comes to Rescue on Crape Myrtles
BY FLORENCE GILKESON
If all goes well, work will begin Monday to move about 140 crape myrtles from the median of U.S. 1 for transplanting on county property sites.
Moore County officials and a private contractor are acting quickly to move and transplant the first trees in time for the Aug. 12 opening of the Dixie Youth World Series at Hillcrest Park. The youth baseball event is expected to bring about 5,000 visitors to the county.
In a surprise move, the Moore County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday agreed to award a contract to McCrimmon Landscaping & Grading Inc., of Southern Pines, to dig up the mature trees and transplant them to Hillcrest Park, the public safety-detention center site under construction and the county office park, all in Carthage.
"They're nice trees, and we can certainly put them to good use," said Richard Smith, director of the county's property management office, after the Tuesday board meeting.
Smith said the county needs "to be at least one mile ahead" of the N.C. Department of Transportation (NCDOT), whose contractor was planning to begin removing the trees on Aug. 15.
NCDOT announced earlier this summer that the trees would be removed to make way for installation of a guardrail and reworking of the storm drainage system along the highway in Southern Pines. Removal of the beautification project has raised a storm of protest from local residents.
"That's really where the death warrant came to the trees," Smith said of the safety-drainage improvement project planned by NCDOT.
Commissioner Tim Lea was the inspiration for the idea to rescue the crape myrtles from certain death. With that support, Smith went to work on the details, and the proposal was added to the Tuesday board meeting agenda.
The result was approval of a contract with McCrimmon not to exceed $19,856.25 to dig up the trees and transplant them at selected county sites.
Sweetening the deal is a contribution valued at about $7,000 by McCrimmon, which offered to donate about $50 for each tree moved by the firm. The company will receive a donation letter from the county. Remainder of the cost will come from the public safety project contingency fund and the county's contingency line item in the general fund.
The contractor's gift is in addition to the $19,856 limit specified in the contract.
Lea made the motion to approve the project on the condition that both NCDOT and Southern Pines are agreeable to the change in plans.
The vote was unanimous by the four commissioners present. Chairman Nick Picerno was absent because of a business conflict.
Smith said an examination shows that 140 viable trees are worth saving. He quoted Dowd Nursery as estimating that it would cost $240 per tree to plant trees 12 to 16 feet tall. Most of the trees under consideration are at least that tall, with some as high as 20 feet.
Saplings may be purchased at lower cost, but it would take several years for them to grow large enough to provide the colorful display of the U.S. 1 trees.
The county doesn't have the equipment or personnel required to carry out such a major landscaping project, Smith said.
The trees are planted in about 22 groups, and Smith said most are in good shape.
The contract calls for McCrimmon to remove and replant designated trees, about 70 planned for Hillcrest Park, another 50 at the new public safety-detention center site and the remaining trees at other county properties.
NCDOT plans to remove trees in the U.S. 1 median from the Morganton Road intersection to near Hyland Hills north of Southern Pines.
Contact Florence Gilkeson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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