With the City of Beaumont gearing up for its multi-million-dollar Seventh Street project, some homeowners in the area aren’t happy the city has cut down some of the oldest trees in Old Town.
“This one is 100 years or more,” said one Old Town resident who asked to be identified only as “Judy.”
Utilizing portions of at least $47.8 million in oil revenue from the Beaumont Municipal Airport, the city awarded the more than $6 million Seventh Street reconstruction project to Brystar Contracting Inc. on April 30.
The project will completely gut the bumpy and pothole-laden Seventh Street and will include new drainage, sewer and water lines underneath a new three-lane road flanked by sidewalks and four-foot bike lanes on each side.
According to Capital Projects Manager Brenda Beadle, the road widening and new infrastructure on Seventh Street marks an exciting — and particularly busy — time for the city.
“We’re trying to do so much to improve our infrastructure, and this is just one more of our thoroughfares that are in our older areas,” she said. “A lot of our older areas suffer from street failure.”
Although westbound Interstate 10 traffic cannot exit directly onto Seventh Street, eastbound lanes have their own exit onto the narrow street, making repairs to the road difficult. What’s more, many residents in the area have complained about flooding during heavy rains, flooding that many thought would be alleviated by major drainage construction on Calder.
“All our water and drainage will be increased to drain the water to the Calder boxes,” Beadle said. “So the water will flow directly to Calder.”
But if the city found it difficult to make homeowners happy during the Calder reconstruction, they will likely hear the same frustration from homeowners on Seventh Street.
To the dismay of some in Old Town, the city has removed at least 15 trees to make room for the widened Seventh Street, some of which were between 80 and 100 years old.
“Now our beautiful oak trees, my beautiful magnolia. You see what they did to that?” Judy said, pointing to her mangled, aging oak and magnolia trees in her yard near Seventh and Ashley Streets. “To give us a sidewalk? I’m sorry. People don’t come here for a bike ride. We’re residents and we live here.”
If Old Town residents are angry about their trees, it may comfort some to know things could have been worse.
According to Public Works Director Patrick Donart, the city looked at some 40 trees along Seventh Street for possible removal, but decided on less than half that.
“If a tree doesn’t need to come out for construction or for power lines, we’re not touching it,” Donart said.
What’s more, Donart said most of the trees are on the city-owned right of way and will be trimmed instead of completely removed. Donart said removal of the other trees was simply unavoidable.
“There’s a portion north of Ashley where the branches are technically on the right of way, but because of where they’re at and how tall they are, we don’t have to mess with them,” he said. “We may just sky (trim) them a little bit.”
Standing next to the noticeably smaller and freshly trimmed trees in her yard, Judy lamented at the city’s next street project.
“I love trees. This is the reason why I bought this house,” Judy said. “Look at my oak now. It’s depressing.”