Article Courtesy of FLORIDA TODAY
By Rick Neale
Published August 16, 2017
MERRITT ISLAND — Flat-topped tree stumps marked with pink spray paint now line
Old Parsonage Drive, where Brevard County crews chopped down a dozen majestic
oak trees from the street right-of-way.
The tree-cutting operation roiled the New
Georgiana Settlement neighborhood. Officials said wayward
tree roots were cracking sidewalks and the road asphalt, so
the oaks had to go.
Naturally, some residents were outraged. One decried the
"ridiculous massacre" in an opinion piece in the August
issue of Merritt Island Now, claiming that "Brevard County
orchestrated their Pearl Harbor attack on our mature
"At first, of course, we were all
devastated. We were totally upset. We didn't understand,"
said Jill Schmidlkofer, secretary of the New Georgiana
Settlement Homeowners Association.
Old Parsonage Drive is a 20 mph loop road just north of the South Tropical
Trail-South Courtenay Parkway split. The neighborhood contains 48 homes. Per
HOA covenant, each housing lot must contain four oaks and four trees of
other species, Schmidlkofer said.
"The oaks create an atmosphere of another
time, a time when life was simpler and peaceful. We relish
that ambience, as do visitors, who often remark that our
neighborhood is unique and desirable because of that
atmosphere," the New Georgiana Settlement HOA board said in
a statement to FLORIDA TODAY.
"We were concerned when the county said that 12 of our
beloved oaks would have to be removed. At first there were
many questions, but then, after we realized that the
original plan of the developer was flawed, we agreed that
removal was the only logical course of action," the HOA
Over time, the lifting pressure of the tree roots pushed
portions of sidewalk upward — creating a trip hazard, said
Susan Jackson, county road and bridge program manager.
"Additionally, in some areas, the root
system has lifted the concrete curb and asphalt pavement of
the roadway, which also creates a public safety hazard for
the motoring public," Jackson said.
Schmidlkofer said Jim Wham, county road and bridge
maintenance manager, explained the oak removal project
during a HOA meeting and allayed most residents' concerns.
This week, heavy equipment operators dug up and removed the
chopped-down trees' underground roots. Some sections of
sidewalk remain missing.
"We realized that it was simply an error that the developers
had made 30 years ago when our neighborhood was established.
It was simply not a very wise thing to put oaks with huge
root systems into a very narrow county easement,"
She said a HOA committee will work with a county arborist to
select appropriate tree species that lack invasive root
systems. Replacement trees will be purchased by homeowners,
not the county.
"There are more oak trees planted in the county easement,
and we fear that someday they, too, will require removal,"
the HOA board stated.
"In the meantime, we will do as much as possible to ensure
that they are not destructive to the road or sidewalks, and
we will derive as much enjoyment as we can from their shade
and protection, as long as we can."