Roadwork] Mound Street Tree Removal Sparks Local Ire

The removal of trees on Mound Street in order to add a traffic lane incited anger among residents not expecting the landscape change. Concern among Sarasota officials about the change prompted Florida Department of Transportation officials to come from Tallahassee to speak to City Commissioners.

“I was appalled when I drove by the road and saw the trees removed. The fact we are removing green space from Luke Wood Park does not make me happy,” said Kate Lowman, president of the Sarasota Coalition of City Neighborhood Associations.

The anger was sparked in part by a miscommunication, according to City Manager Bob Bartolotta. DOT officials plan to put the trees, which all came from a state right-of-way near the park, back once project work is done. The roadwork includes addition of one southbound lane on Mound Street from Osprey Avenue to Washington Boulevard.

But that project, which has been in planning for years, also upset those closely following a connectivity effort with U.S. 41 in the downtown Sarasota area. A charrette on bayfront connectivity was recently held by the city, and pointed at creating roundabouts or taking other measures to make the area more pedestrian-friendly.

City Commissioner Kelly Kirschner disliked the timing of the tree removal, which he said created an “atrocious entry to the city during the entire tourist season.”

Kirschner wanted the City Commission to send a letter asking work on the state project be suspended, but such a move was voted down in a 3-2 vote.