The removal of a centuries-old oak tree in Blitchton by the Georgia Department of Transportation began earlier this week to make room for future improvements to the intersection of highways 280 and 80.
But while the work to the intersection is good news to many, the loss of the tree is anything but to others.
Wendy Bolton, president of the Coastal Bryan Tree Foundation, said the oak tree was around 300 years old. She said she was disappointed to see the oak cut down, but hopes that the tree was a major factor when planning the upgrades.
“It’s hard to understand why when there are significant trees like that that the DOT can’t work around it,” Bolton said. “I know sometimes that is impossible and that may have been the case here, but I certainly would hope they took every consideration into saving that tree.
“It’s like 300 years old, and to lose something that magnificent is heartbreaking.”
Bolton added losing the Blitchton oak would be equivalent to Richmond Hill losing the two large oak trees in front of Clyde’s market at the intersection of highways 144 and 17.
According to Craig Sullivan with the DOT, the Blitchton tree was in the path of a future turn lane included in plans of the intersection upgrade.
Sullivan said the tree was originally scheduled to be cut down back in 2008, but the highway project wasn’t going to happen at that time – though he also said the schedule for improvements to the intersection has not yet been set.
The DOT decided not to remove the tree then, he said, and allowed Greg Parker, who was then developing a Parker’s Market at the intersection, to build the store’s driveway around the tree.
“We told the county and (Parker) when this project happened, we’d move (Parker’s) driveway and the tree would be cut down,” Sullivan said.
County Administrator Phil Jones said the county had safety concerns with the tree several years ago due to its close proximity to Hwy. 280.
At that time, DOT would not cut the tree down, he said, and now that the DOT is realigning that intersection, the county has no sanction in regards to the tree.
“That is DOT right of way, the county has absolutely no control over that,” Jones said. “If the DOT has made the decision to take it down, then that’s the DOT’s decision.”
Jones said he hated to see any tree of that size and age be cut down, but with the tree’s location, the DOT couldn’t meet safety requirements for the intersection redesign if it remained.