When Savannah started renovating Police Memorial Trail, a 0.6-mile biking and walking path tucked between the Casey Canal and a remnant of woods south of Victory Drive, an anonymous tree lover got nervous.
They stapled neon blue, green and pink signs to several of the best trail-side specimens. On a more than century-old cypress the would-be Lorax pleaded:
“Please don’t cut down this tree. How long do you think it took this tree to get this big and beautiful?… I love this old tree. Please don’t kill it. Leave it be. Thank you.”
That was last spring. The $665,000 project is nearly complete now. The old cypress still stands. In fact, crews removed only four trees with trunks larger than about a 6-inch diameter plus another four dead trees, said Dan Reel, Savannah’s capital project manager.
One of the trees they removed was a large mulberry that was typically heavy with fruit each spring. The Lorax posted an RIP message on its stump:
“Thank you for providing us with shade from the hot sun. And thanks for all the berries! You will be missed!”
The mulberry draped low over the trail and never really belonged there, said Nick Deffley, Savannah’s sustainability director.
“Mulberry trees propagate pretty quick, and they’re not native,” he said.
Saving trees was top of mind even before the signs went up, Deffley and Reel said. Hurricane Matthew had damaged trees on the trail back in 2016. Officials did a walk-through with the city arborist early in the construction to evaluate what could be saved. The city rerouted the northern end of the trail around some large trees and also raised the trail a bit to allow more room for tree roots to grow unimpeded. Future plans call for tree planting along the most open area of the trail to screen it from the Truman Parkway.
“I was kind of blown away to see how much concern there was for the trees,” Deffley said. “So I’m very glad that that was made known. At the same time, the city had no intention to take them down.”
The signs, which Deffley called “great activism” remained up through the summer and only recently fell off as the staples that held them in place rusted.
The renovated trail, with access from the east end of Kerry Street and from the E. 52nd Street lane at Bee Road, is already unblocked and safe to use but will be ceremonially reopened later this fall.
It’s part of the Truman Linear Park Trail. Chatham County opened a $10.3 million three-mile segment of the trail from Lake Mayer to DeRenne Avenue in 2020. Savannah plans to begin construction in 2022 on the remaining segment that will connect the existing pieces. When complete, the trail will connect Lake Mayer and Daffin Park with about 6 miles of trail.
The Truman Linear Park Trail, in turn, is part of the larger Tide to Town initiative, a plan to connect 75% of Savannah’s neighborhoods through biking and walking paths. It’s anticipated to include the west side of Savannah through the developing Canal District and the south side of Savannah along Middleground Road.