Mayor: ‘No chainsaws running’ on tree tunnelPublished 8:48pm Tuesday, November 19, 2013
By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor
Pelham and state officials have no immediate plans to do away with Pelham’s tree tunnel on State Park Road, Mayor Gary Waters said during a Nov. 19 town hall meeting at the Pelham Civic Complex.
“You can go home knowing that there are no chainsaws running,” Waters told the crowd of about 75 at the meeting. “When it happens, it will be a state initiative, not a city initiative.”
Waters’ comments came after several Pelham residents at the meeting voiced concerns about the future of the tree tunnel, which is on State Park Road just south of Amphitheater Road.
During an Oct. 22 meeting with the city’s business owners, Waters called State Park Road the “most dangerous” road in the city, and said seven people have died and 82 people have been injured on the road since 1995.
On Nov. 19, Waters said he would support realigning State Park Road to bypass the tree tunnel in the future, but said most of State Park Road is owned by the Alabama Department of Conservation.
The federal highway department owns and maintains State Park road between Alabama 119 and Amphitheater Road, Waters said.
If the tree tunnel is bypassed in the future, Waters said he would support turning the tree tunnel into a hiking and biking trail.
Pelham resident Michele Robertson told Waters more than 520 people have joined a “Save the tree tunnel on State Park Road” Facebook group since Waters’ comments on Oct. 22.
“Those trees have been there for a long time,” Robertson said. “That area can be landscaped and can look better without cutting down trees.”
“I understand wanting to retain something that beautiful, but I – me personally – don’t chose aesthetics over the safety of our residents,” Waters, a former Pelham fire chief, said. “I can tell you about pulling a dead woman from her vehicle while her two infants were in the back seat because a tree fell on her car.”
Waters and City Council President Rick Hayes said Pelham does not have control over the road’s future, but said they will work with state and federal agencies on any future projects on the road.
“I want to put your concerns to rest,” Waters said. “There is not a plan by the city of Pelham to cut down trees in the tree tunnel.”