OXFORD, Miss. — Dr. Ralph Vance received a big shock recently when he looked out his window at his Old Taylor Road home. He could see a lot farther than he used to be able to and he wasn't happy about it.
The new view came after the Mississippi Department of Transportation knocked down dozens of trees on and near his property to make way for the Old Taylor bridge expansion and new roundabouts.
"I think they cut down about 20 trees that were on my property," Vance said at a recent meeting of the Oxford Tree Board. "I can't say for sure because the trees are on the line of the right of way and my property but I do think there were about 20 on my property and many more on the right of way. They were all just gone within 48 hours."
Alderman Janice Antonow, who attended the meeting, said the city couldn't help with the trees taken down off MDOT's right of way, but she did ask Building and Grounds Superintendent Billy Lamb to help replace some of the trees Vance lost from his property.
Lamb said he could plant five or six large trees that are growing in the city's tree farm right now and come back in the late fall to plant some more.
"We can get you some relief right now," Lamb said.
With two major MDOT road projects going in Oxford the roundabouts on Old Taylor Road and the continuous flow intersection project at West Jackson Avenue and Mississippi Highway 6, Oxford is starting to look a little disheveled.
"It looks like we had a FEMA disaster," Tree Board member Mary Hartwell Howorth said.
However, the Tree Board members have been told some relief is on the way or at least will be when both projects are completed in the next year to two.
"They (MDOT) are planning on doing some plantings on Old Taylor and West Jackson when the projects are complete," Oxford Public Works Director Bart Robinson said. "We don't know what that means exactly yet or what type of trees. They told us they wanted to get the Tree Board's input on those decisions."
Transportation Commissioner for the Northern District Mike Tagert said MDOT is looking into options to provide vegetative buffers for the residents, like Vance, living near the two projects.
"We're examining what would be most effective and, also, attractive," Tagert said.
Tagert said MDOT is also working with the University of Mississippi whose officials said they would like a hand in landscaping and maintaining the roundabouts and ramps on the north side of Highway 6 near the university.
"They are submitting some designs and we're at the stage where we're just trading notes right now," Tagert said.
Tagert said he realizes the construction process is a "messy one."
"But when it's all said and done, we're going to end up with a product that's attractive and much, much safer that will allow the growth of the city to continue."
State Rep. Brad Mayo, R-Oxford, who lives near the area where hundreds of trees were taken down recently for the West Jackson-Highway 6 project, has been working with MDOT to promote re-planting of some of those trees.
"I'm very glad that (Tagert) and MDOT are able to help maintain Oxford's commitment to quality growth," Mayo said. "I appreciate their work."
Information from: Oxford Eagle, http://www.oxfordeagle.com