At the Liberty Grove Highway Committee meeting on Aug. 3, residents of Beach Road expressed their concern with the upcoming resurfacing. Most who spoke feared the destruction of many trees lining the road and the opening of the shady canopy covering the nearly three-mile stretch.
“We are not obstructionists. We agree that dead and dying trees should come down,” said Betsy Rogers. “If we are upset about losing the canopy of the road, it is only because we care about it so deeply.”
On the agenda at the meeting was a decision on where the clear zone for the construction would be. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, a clear zone is, “an unobstructed, traversable roadside area that allows a driver to stop safely, or regain control of a vehicle that has left the roadway. The width of the clear zone should be based on risk.”
The highway committee is determining a clear zone of between six and eight feet from the edge of the blacktop when they begin work on Beach Road starting at the end of this year. Any trees that fall within the clear zone, dead or alive, may be removed at the discretion of the highway committee and contractor.
“The road is not being widened,” said Committee Chair Mike Walker, dispelling the rumor that had circulated down Beach Road and around the room that morning. “Each lane of the road is 10 feet wide. That is not going to change. The clear zone of six to eight feet is being clearly delineated because of emergency vehicles and other safety concerns.”
Encroaching trees on an already tight road makes it hard for emergency vehicles such as fire trucks and ambulances to respond as quickly. While no residents denied the need for emergency vehicle access, many felt that taking down trees was not the way to make improvements.
“It would totally change the character of the road,” said Chuck Keller, who suggested a traffic study to assess the real impact of the road on emergency access and other safety concerns.
Mark Sander stated, “This unnecessary project is going to change our neighborhood and we don’t like it. Put the money in some other project that needs your attention.”
Committee members believed that the public was overestimating the numbers of trees to be removed.
“I think when people see the process they are going to be more comfortable,” said Walker.
Pat Hockers, committee member and owner of Hockers Excavating, traveled down the road and saw about nine trees that would be slated for the wood chipper, not including dead ones.
Walker suggested residents travel to Garrett Bay Road to get an idea of how Beach Road may look next year. Many in the audience shook their head at the recommendation, remembering two years ago when the resurfacing and clear zone debate around Garrett Bay Road led to Carol Maronek being escorted out of a public meeting by a sheriff’s deputy.
The committee will walk down the road on Monday, Aug. 17, at 9 am to observe the trees that are likely to be cut down during the construction. Property owners are welcome to walk with the committee, but Walker stated it might be best to have a few spokesmen instead of every interested homeowner. They will meet at the intersection of Beach Road and Porcupine Bay Road. A decision on the length of the clear zone will be voted on at a future highway committee meeting after the walk through.