City of Danville Public Works crews working jointly with private contractors will begin after Labor Day to remove the willow oak trees planted along Mount Vernon Avenue and Virginia Avenue as a memorial to 41 soldiers from the city who died in service during World War I.
The trees are being removed because they are unstable and pose a risk to life and property.
“We have talked with residents in the neighborhood, and they all agree the trees should be removed,” said Rick Drazenovich, director of public works. “We want to remove them before another storm comes through like the one in late June.”
A wind storm on June 29 felled four trees.
The oak trees are 83 years old and have grown to a height of 90 feet or more. Their roots are constricted to the center medians, and in places have lifted and cracked curbing. As a result, the trees are too large for their root structure.
“Oaks are just not meant to be in a constricted area,” Drazenovich said.
At one time, 41 trees were planted along the two streets – one tree in honor of each soldier. The trees have been dying off over the years. Today, 14 remain standing. A certified arborist has recommended those 14 be removed, saying they have become more unstable since the storm.
Due to the size of these trees, Drazenovich said it will be necessary to rent a crane to remove them. The removal will be done with a combination of in-house crews and private contractors. Travel will be restricted on these two streets during the removal, which could require three weeks to complete, depending on weather conditions.
The cost of removal will be approximately $35,000, which will be come from Virginia Department of Transportation funds allocated to the city.
Drazenovich said new trees eventually will be planted in the medians, but residents provided no consensus on the type of trees.
The bronze plaques at the base of the current trees will be removed and stored for now. The granite markers with the names of all 41 soldiers will remain at each end of Mount Vernon Avenue and Virginia Avenue.
The city also will consider applying for VDOT funds to widen the streets and reduce the width of the center medians. However, the city will have to wait until the next funding cycle in June.
“The residents told us they wanted wider streets, and we do too,” Drazenovich said. “Those streets are hard to plow at their current width.”
On Nov. 11, 1922, the Kiwanis planted 41 maple trees on Mount Vernon Avenue and Virginia Avenue in memory of the soldiers from Danville who died in service during World War I. Each tree was dedicated with a bronze plaque with the name of the soldier and a Kiwanis emblem. The plaques were attached to the curb adjacent to the trees.
The maples became diseased and were replaced by the current willow oaks in 1929.