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City to replace plants removed from median

By Staff | Sep 25, 2015

It all started on Southeast 17th Place with John Allen, who over the years planted palm trees and other tropical plants in the circular median at the end of the cul-de-sac in the Cornwallis neighborhood.

It all came down when city of Cape Coral crews arrived a couple of weeks ago and removed every living plant without being asked, according to Mark Burke, one of Allen’s former neighbors.

Allen recently moved to Arizona and did not see his coveted creation be destroyed.

“It was total overkill by the city,” said Burke. “The mayor should be embarrassed by this because Cape Coral is a designated Tree City. What do they do? They come and tear out our trees. It’s a waste of taxpayer money.”

Burke and several other neighbors who helped Allen from time to time were taking care of the landscaping, but when a hive of honey bees took up residence in the city irrigation box, Burke called the city asking for help in removing the bees so they could trim and care for the landscaping.

“The median contained mature cabbage palms, red guava and other tropical plants,” said Burke. “Some palms were there for 30 years. (Allen) added pavers and concrete benches and tables in the shade. It was also a habitat for woodpeckers.”

Burke said the circle was far from an eyesore, but being bare now it definitely is. LCEC once replaced a telephone pole and guy wires right next to the previous pole, which was not removed.

“If anything, that’s the eyesore now without the vegetation,” said Burke.

Not wanting to be stung by the honey bees, or poison them, Burke contacted the city action desk asking for help removing the bees. After two weeks of no action, it seemed he was getting the runaround.

“The next time I called they asked if I wanted to adopt the median and take care of it,” Burke said. “I wasn’t sure if I wanted my name on it or not, but I never asked them to remove the plants.”

Burke believes the city’s position was that if no one was responsible for taking care of it that they would return it to the way it was (bare), and they did. The city even sent Burke the forms to adopt the median.

“I sat down at the tables many times,” said neighbor Evan Roberts. “It was a good spot for conversations. It was a little overgrown, but being an eyesore is a very different thing. It was visually appealing before the city chopped it all down.”

Public Works Director Steve Neff, who was not aware of the situation when first asked about it, said it sounded like a miscommunication and he would look into it.

“If it was in rough shape, we would take it down,” said Neff. “Still, it would not be very high on our priority list.”

Burke tried to get something done about the bees by contacting his councilman, Jim Burch.

“I’d been sick, but I finally got there today (Monday) to see it and took pictures,” Burch said. “I want to figure out why it happened so that it doesn’t happen again. If there was some miscommunication with this, I’ll fix it. I am adamant about repairing any damage that was done if we made a mistake, inadvertently or otherwise.”

Burch and Neff confirmed Thursday that the situation was a case of miscommunication.

“Staff called Mr. Burke today to apologize, and I talked to him today as well,” said Neff. “We will work with him as partners and Burke will formally adopt the median and maintain it. Within reason we will replace some of the trees. Mr. Burke was satisfied and we left on good terms. Hopefully, we can help make the median look even better.”

Neighbors should start seeing the beautification start happening in the next couple of weeks. They were informed the city will try to find a couple of trees that are more mature than new growth.

“I can see our median in the cul-de-sac at the end of Southeast 17th Place return to the little oasis that it once was,” said Burke. “The city seems willing to step up to the plate and make amends. It don’t think it was malicious, just a drop in communication.”

Burke said he and the other neighbors are very happy with the city’s response and especially the apology.