A report from an arborist consulting with Mandeville said fill soil spread within the critical root zone of a stand of live oak trees on the West Beach Parkway median “looks worse than it actually is,” but nevertheless should be removed.
And not a moment too soon for several Mandeville residents who continued to voice concern on the matter Thursday before the Mandeville City Council.
A handful of residents contend there are numerous issues with the fill that recently was added to West Beach median to spruce up the area. The complaints range from the composition and compaction of the soil to its smell. The chief concern, however, is that the fill is well over the recommended 2-inch depth in some places, which some say will smother the oaks’ roots and ultimately kill the stately trees.
The consulting report was filed by arborist Malcolm Guidry, who has provided similar services to the city for 25 years. In the report, Guidry wrote to city arborist Catherine Casanova that everything with the fill project is up to grade, and that the fill soil is “physically and biologically ... better quality than the existing soil” in the area.
But to opt on the side of caution, Guidry advised the city to remove the fill within the area of the critical root zone that is deeper than 2 inches. The report recommends waiting until the soil is “perfectly dry” to do the work, and that the rubber tires on the tractor used to grade the area be deflated so as to cause less stress on tree roots.
He added that the consulting arborist should be on hand to monitor the work and to ensure conditions are suitable before proceeding.
Rebecca Rohrbaugh, who often speaks out on preservation issues in the city, urged that the work be done as quickly as possible. She fears having more soil than recommended on the tree roots could ultimately destroy the oaks, which are protected by city ordinance.
“This should never have happened (like this,) in the first place,” she said.
The added fill also raised drainage questions for some in the area. Guidry’s report suggested it may be necessary to construct a swale to allow the area to drain freely.
Another oak tree, this one near work being done on a canal at Galvez Street, also was a point of discussion during Thursday’s meeting.
One limb of the oak, estimated to be about 75 years old, is impeding work, including the driving of sheet pilings into the canal. The contractor on the project previously said it would cost an additional $171,000 to work around the oak — a price tag some members of the city council balked at during a recent meeting.
Mandeville Public Works Director David Degeneres said an inspection found that the limb was split and plans were to cut it back even farther. The arborist on the project, however, felt it sufficient to cut the limb back to the nearest lateral, he said, and the tree was to be treated and fertilized.
The council also heard from Gus Bordelon, president of Coastal Environmental Services, whose company took over the contract to collect garbage in the city beginning Sept. 1. Coastal recently completed a purchase of Progressive Waste Solutions, which previously held the contract for solid waste collection and disposal in Mandeville.
Coastal Environmental is based in Lacombe. Its parent company is Avondale-based Riverbirch, which is the largest privately owned landfill in the state and the fifth largest in the U.S.