Solution may save trees in U.S. 41 median in Lutz
LUTZ - A solution to save trees in a seven-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 41 median is close at hand, officials say. In response to residents’ outcry, Hillsborough County officials scheduled a Jan. 24 community meeting to discuss preserving crape myrtles and other mature trees in the median stretching from the Florida/Nebraska avenues apex to the Pasco County line. State Sen. John Legg, who was among those at that crowded Lutz Community Center meeting, remains involved in seeking a solution. Called to the front of the room to address the vocal crowd of about 120 people, the Lutz Republican urged residents not impose a deadline for a fix, as the trees would remain while a solution is worked out. Legg’s aide, Tim Couet, said there has been substantial progress, and a third-party landscaping maintenance agreement to care for the trees seems imminent.“We’re working with community partners, the Lutz Civic Association, the Lutz Citizens Coalition, the county and a particular local business partner,” Couet said. Indications are the unnamed partner is willing to put forth the money to provide maintenance for the trees, shrubs and grass in the stretch of median, he said. “We will know definitely in May and come back and meet with the community to make certain of the details,” he said. “The community wants it and we are doing everything in our power to deliver it.” Florida’s Department of Transportation installed the landscaping years ago. After the state determined it no longer could afford upkeep, the county assumed maintenance. A commercial landscaper began providing free maintenance about four years ago, but recently stopped, according to the county. Hillsborough officials planned to turn the median back to the state, which will not reassume responsibility until the trees and shrubs are removed. Trees in medians in the seven-mile stretch include 64 crape myrtles, 14 wax myrtles, 10 oaks and three red maples. “We are jointly exploring solutions through corporate sponsors, nonprofits, volunteer groups and local civic associations to identify a long-term, sustainable solution” the county stated in a recent update to residents who provided email addresses at the meeting, and posted it on the county web site: www.hillsborughcounty.org. When a follow-up meeting is set, it will be announced on the web site and sent directly to email contacts.