Rosselli Park bottle brush tree saved from the chopping block, for now

Residents came to the defense of a bottle brush tree that was slated to be removed at Rosselli Park. When contractors came to remove the tree, which has been called a potential safety hazard and was to be taken down to make way for new playground equipment, they climbed its limbs and the contractor left.

TREASURE ISLAND — An arborist advised city commissioners that Rosselli Park’s popular old bottle brush tree — which the Recreation Department wanted to send to the chopping block — is nearing the end of its life cycle, but is also “salvageable.”

After that assessment, the City Commission voted 4-1 to keep the bottle brush tree in the park’s designated play area and relocate new playground equipment east of the play area. Construction of a new play area will include relocation of the 20-by-20 foot donated wooden pavilion to the area north of the current playground.

The tree was scheduled to be removed on Dec. 7 by El Cheapo Tree Service to provide space for new playground equipment. However, due to a gathering of residents, some whom climbed its branches to protect the tree, the company backed off.

A week later, commissioners directed staff to have an arborist evaluate the tree.

At the Jan. 19 City Commission meeting, Recreation Director Cathy Hayduke reported Ed DePaul, owner of El Cheapo Tree Service and an ISA certified arborist, found the tree does not appear to be diseased; however, it does need to be pruned to alleviate pressure and stress from the heavy limbs. Additionally, he indicated that the structure of the tree is poor. He advised he can make reduction cuts of its branches, but the limbs appear to be the problem.

DePaul told commissioners “anytime you evaluate a tree, you look for cavities and decay that is considered weak wood and prone to failure. We were originally going to take the tree down, but that cut came to a halt.”

DePaul said the life expectancy of a bottle brush tree is 20 to 40 years. Recreation staff estimates this tree is about 35 years old.

He said the tree’s life expectancy can be extended by reducing end weight of its branches and removing the decayed limbs. DePaul cautioned “there could be more decay once you remove the limbs, you don’t know till you get there … Pruning a tree is an art and science. Large limbs have to be removed.”

The tree could be prone to insect infestation, and the surface roots create a trip hazard, DePaul said.

“The tree is pretty much at the end of its life expectancy,” he said. “It can outlive its life expectancy, but you have the possibility of surface root decay.”

DePaul advised the city should erect a barricade around the tree’s exposed roots to act as a barrier, because “if you have people walking though the park, if they walk by at night, not paying attention, they can trip … I believe it’s salvageable, but I would put a barricade around the roots so nobody trips. As it stands right now it looks healthy, but poorly structured; (you) just have to put a barricade around it.”

Commissioner Tyler Payne said a barrier “is a bit overly cautious” and it was not necessary to put a barrier around everything that someone could trip on. “The whole reason we brought up saving the tree is because people enjoy having the tree to interact with, not to just look at,” he said.

Four sabal palm trees, one small bottle brush tree and a palm tree cluster will be removed to provide space for installation of the new playground and pavilion.

Hayduke told commissioners an inspection of the current playground equipment found it deteriorating and not meeting standards. The new playground equipment has been delivered and is currently in storage, awaiting a site in the park.

Mayor Larry Lunn said the city “obviously can’t keep the existing playground equipment in light of the recent evaluation. I feel it would be unwise, as was suggested, that we keep the existing equipment. We would incur a tremendous liability. We absolutely have to put in new equipment and take out the old.”

Payne was the dissenter in the 4-1 vote. He objected to purchasing additional playground equipment at a cost of $32,000, rather than the $5,000 price tag he expected.

Commissioner Saleene Partridge said many constituents in her district are excited about the prospect of a new playground. “They are already driving to the dog park, they have no problem driving to the playground. They feel we need new playground equipment,” she said.

Hayduke said future playground improvements will be made on Isle of Palms and the Treasure Island Park exercise area.

Firehouse Subs provides rescue tools grant

Fire Chief William Barrs told commissioners a fire engine purchased by the city in 2018 was not equipped with the full complement of tools required to meet the department’s needs. The department compensated by transferring older equipment from the reserve vehicle to the new one. However, this left the reserve vehicle shorthanded.

The city recently applied for and was granted a Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation grant to purchase the latest technology in hydraulic vehicle rescue equipment at no cost to our taxpayers. “This set of tools represents the last items necessary to completely outfit both apparatus with a complete set of tools,” Barrs said.

The foundation awarded Treasure Island Fire Rescue up to $28,740 for a Hurst cutter, spreader, ram and accessories.