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Gray on Kirby

The Chron’s Lisa Gray makes a pitch for saving at least some of the doomed trees along Kirby Drive.

The street is a major thoroughfare, a big deal in and of itself. And even more important, it presents the kind of challenge that Houston has to learn to deal with. It’s obvious, driving past Kirby’s current spate of high-rise construction, that we’re becoming a different kind of city: tighter packed, more urban than suburban, a city with light rail and pedestrians.

A different kind of city needs a different kind of street — a street that we’re not used to designing.

She wrote this column after Trees for Houston made a public appeal last Friday to change the plan for Kirby Drive.

Founder of Trees for Houston William Coats told the media Friday morning his organization probably made a mistake in endorsing a compromise to make Kirby Drive 73 feet wide before seeing engineering plans.

As a result, he said, only speedy action on the part of the city of Houston can save about 135 trees standing between Westheimer Road and Richmond Avenue from being removed when construction on the Kirby Storm Drainage project begins, probably in July.

“Good people correct mistakes,” Coats said, gesturing from the patio of Beck’s Prime in the 2900 block to several trees the group had marked with red X’s to symbolize each would be removed.

Coats comments came almost three weeks after he told a group attending the Upper Kirby District TIRZ 28 that Trees of Houston wanted the width of the proposed street surface reduced by a foot on either side.

[…]

Coats said Friday half the trees along the disputed stretch of street could have been saved in a 73-foot configuration, if the engineering plans had been drawn “in any way that is sympathetic” to the trees.

“Most of the time, we don’t say a word,” he said of trees lost during city projects. “In this case, the citizens will pay for taking the trees down unnecessarily.”

Coats said trees the size of the larger ones in the area would cost at least $25,000 to replace but that would be impossible, because there would be no room for the root balls to be planted.

“We want to have shade as we are enjoying here today,” he said.

It may be too late, but if you feel strongly about this, it’s never a bad idea to contact your City Council member and let him or her know that you’d like to see more of an effort made to save these trees. Contact info is here.

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