Overland Park residents are trying to save this 100-year-old oak tree along 69 Highway
The Kansas Department of Transportation is slated to remove the century-old bur oak tree, which is located at the southwest corner of 119th Street and U.S. 69, to make room for the 69Express toll lane project.
Local residents are calling for a century-old tree to be saved in Overland Park that is set to be removed as part of the 69Express toll lane project.
A post on Nextdoor, a neighborhood social network site, has garnered more than 100 likes and comments from residents wanting to preserve the old bur oak tree, which is located at the southwest corner of 119th Street and U.S. 69 Highway.
The Kansas Department of Transportation plans to grade down the area with the oak tree and use the space for a pond that would capture stormwater runoff, said Laura Wagner, public engagement and communications manager for the 69Express project.
Wagner said KDOT has a limited number of places where stormwater can drain off in this area, and the site of the bur oak tree is one of those places.
“Keeping water off the roadways is important to KDOT for the safety of the traveling public," Wagner told the Shawnee Mission Post. "Keeping this runoff from flooding streams and washing away trails such as the Tomahawk and Indian Creek trail are important. That is why detention basins are necessary along the U.S. 69 corridor. We have to work within the footprint of KDOT right-of-way for the basins, so we have only a few places where we can move that water temporarily. We are using the loop ramps in some locations, and this area along 119th Street.”
Dallas Stephens, owner of Arb Tech Kansas City and creator of the Nextdoor post, said he believes the tree is over 100 years old and in a perfectly healthy condition.
“Our canopy is beingdecimated by emerald ash borer and other things and we go and cut down an ancient tree basically just for the sake of toll roads that most people don’t want,” he said.
Stephens said he hopes KDOT could keep the tree and design around it. However, if it has to be removed, he said he prefers the removal process be postponed in order to outline a specific plan on what to do with the tree’s remains.
Overland Park City Forester Bailey Patterson told the Post that if the tree is removed, then city staff plan to work with KDOT to salvage some of the wood for future use, such as a tables or benches.
When crews seek to cut down trees for construction projects, they must do so early enough in the spring to protect migratory birds that would use those trees for habitats, said Wagner.
Wagner said that all trees within the confines of the project must be removed by March 1 in accordance with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s migratory bird requirements.
That March 1 date conflicts with current deadline requirements provided on KDOT’s website, which state that tree demolition crews actually have until April 1 to remove the tree in order to comply with the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
In response to the Post’s inquiry about the discrepancy on deadlines, Wagner said the project team “had already established a goal of having this complete by March 1st in advance of the beginning of that nesting season.”
Other trees along the right-of-way of U.S. 69 are also being cut down by Evergy and KDOT for utility relocation, new road configuration and noise wall construction, Wagner said.
This story was originally published on the Shawnee Mission Post.