Local residents are calling for the rescue of a mature tree in Overland Park that is due to be removed as part of the 69Express toll lane project.
A post on Nextdoor, a neighborhood social network, has garnered more than 100 likes and comments from residents who want to preserve the old oak tree, which sits on the southwest corner of 119th Street and US 69 Highway.
The Kansas Department of Transportation plans to level the area with oak and use the space for a pond that would capture stormwater runoff, said Laura Wagner, public engagement and communications manager for the 69Express project.
Wagner said KDOT has a limited number of places where rainwater can drain in this area, and the Burl Oak site is one of those places.
“Keeping water off the streets is important to KDOT for the safety of the traveling public,” Wagner told the Shawnee Mission Post. We need detention basins along the US 69 corridor for that. We have to work within the KDOT right-of-way footprint for the basins, so we only have a few places where we can temporarily move that water. We are using the loop ramps in some locations and in this area along 119th Street.”
Dallas Stephens, owner of Arb Tech Kansas City and creator of the Nextdoor post, said he believes the tree is over 100 years old and in perfectly healthy condition.
“Our canopy has been decimated by the emerald ash borer and other things and we go and cut down an ancient tree basically just for the sake of toll roads which most people don’t want,” he said.
Stephens said he hopes KDOT can maintain the tree and design around it. However, if it is to be removed, he said he would prefer the removal process to be postponed to outline a specific plan for what to do with the tree’s remains.
Overland Park City forester Bailey Patterson told the Post that if the tree is removed, city staff plans to work with KDOT to reclaim some of the wood for future use, such as tables or benches.
When crews try to cut down trees for construction projects, they have to do it early enough in the spring to protect migratory birds that would use those trees for habitat, Wagner said.
Wagner said all trees within the project boundaries must be removed by March 1 in accordance with Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s migratory bird requirements.
That March 1 date conflicts with the current deadline requirements provided on KDOT’s website, which state that tree demolition crews actually have until April 1 to remove the tree in order to comply with the Migratory Bird Treaty. Act.
In response to the Post’s inquiry into the discrepancy in deadlines, Wagner said the project team “already set a goal to have it completed by March 1 before that nesting season starts.”
Other trees along US 69’s right-of-way are also being felled by Evergy and KDOT for utility relocation, new road layout and noise wall construction, Wagner said.
This story was originally published in the Shawnee Mission Post.