Augusta, GA (WJBF) – A lot has changed at the James Brown statue as crews are beginning the transformation. But, one thing wasn’t supposed to change…the two big oaks framing the statue.
“The original plan was to keep the oaks there. I think, with the work that was done, it may be possible that we may lose the oaks,” says Augusta Engineering Department director Abie Ladson.
That’s what the chairman of the Augusta Tree Commission believes, saying the trench digging at the statue damaged the root system of the trees. “As you can see, in that ditch right there, every root to that tree has been cut, every feeder root, so even now even if they decided to leave these trees, they’re going to die,” said Roy Simkins.
Augusta Commissioners approved the work in an effort to enhance visitors’ experience at the statue.
“It was done quickly before we had any advice from the arborists, or the Tree Commission. You know, that does disappointment me,” said Commissioner Mary Davis.
If the trees are taken out, the statue looses a big source of shade for visitors.
“Something is going to have to give, so those are some of the sacrifices that we are going to have to make around that area,” said Commissioner Ben Hasan.
“And now, when these trees are gone, you’ve got a heat island here that will compare to any heat island in the South,” said Simkins.
The trees are still at the site, right now, and Ladson added…if they have to be removed, people likely won’t stay away due to the lack of their shade. “So, without the shade, it would be okay?” we asked Ladson. “Yeah, I think so. Nobody, at least I don’t think anybody, is going to stay out there all day long just to hang around the statue,” said Ladson.
Ladson said, now the city is sharing the statue area plans with the Tree Commissioner and seeking advice about replacement trees, if needed. He doesn’t know if the budget could absorb replacing the trees with full-sized ones, if needed, or if they would have to be smaller trees providing less shade.