|According to an
old story, the wife of the first Texas State Forester was taking a train through
West Texas to join her husband who had already taken his position in East Texas.
After mentioning her husband’s new position to a fellow passenger, the passenger
looked out at the passing landscape and said something to the effect of: “Lady,
Texas doesn’t need a State Forester." He then added: "- or else it needs one real
recent letter to
the editor of the Pampa News (Online) got our attention. The letter was from TxDOT
Amarillo District Engineer Mark E. Tomlinson. In the letter Mr. Tomlinson addresses
the “proposed tree removal project on U.S. 60 and U.S. 83 in Hemphill, Roberts,
Ochiltree, Carson, Gray and Lipscomb counties.”|
Mr. Tomlinson offered
these eye-opening statistics:
“From 1992 to 2001, 303 fixed object crashes
[on the highways mentioned above] were recorded. These crashes resulted in eight
fatalities and 203 injuries. Seven of the fatalities and 11 of the injuries were
Our curiosity forces us to ask the question: Has anyone
has recorded how many of these “tree-related” fatalities were beverage alcohol-related.
With five counties involved, seven fatalities in nine years - that about equals
the carnage that occurs on an average “safe” Houston intersection.
Tomlinson then uses understated comedy to make his point:
“While trees are
often visually pleasing, they are also extremely solid objects.”
|“Beauty through contest
sensitive design” |
Engineer Tomlinson goes on to say:
you know that we do not suggest a project of this (sic) lightly.” TxDOT has, for
many years, been a leader in creating roadside beauty through the planting of
numerous trees, shrubs and other plant material. We also work diligently to preserve
existing beauty through contest sensitive design and good maintenance practices.
We actively manage this land to preserve its beauty and usefulness through sound
environmental stewardship. We take this responsibility very seriously."
|The Old Dilemma of the
Interlaced Fundamental Mission VS Factoring In Sound Practices |
to quote from Mr. Tomlinson's letter: "As it is with many things in life, though,
there are other needs and priorities to be considered as well. Striking a balance
between these potentially conflicting issues is one of the most difficult things
we do. Interlaced through this is our fundamental mission to serve the people
of Texas and others who use our highways. Therefore, we listen closely to people's
opinions and concerns and work diligently to address these in our projects and
operations. We also factor in sound engineering practice and experience to ensure
the creation and maintenance of the safest, most effective transportation system
"In this case, we are very concerned about safety
on U.S. 60 and U.S. 83. We believe these numbers are significant and that we need
to develop a project that addresses these fixed object crashes. For decades, TxDOT
has worked toward providing a "forgiving roadside" on our highways. Approximately
one third of all highway fatalities are associated with single vehicle, run-off-the-road
crashes. We cannot predict precisely where these vehicles will leave the road
and cannot control the causes for the departures. Therefore, it is vitally important
that the roadside be free of fixed objects. This concept has been incorporated
into our Roadway Design Manual and is required whenever we undertake roadway rehabilitation
"We are also considering the feasibility of transplanting
some trees and possibly planting new trees in safe areas."
down mature trees that have managed to grow in a harsh environment and replace
them with struggling transplanted trees that require at least some initial maintenance
(including watering) is not an equal proposition. Transplanting trees is not as
simple as it sounds - especially in Panhandle soil.
has given a “tentative letting date" of October 2005 and concludes his letter
with: "In the interim, if you should have any questions or need additional information,
please contact me at (806) 356-3201.
departments range from engineering to litter control to promoting tourism, traffic
counts, mapping, prairie dog poisoning, guardrail repair, etc. It is our hope
that TxDoT doesn't take on the additional responsibility of tree removal, especially
in the Panhandle where they may have to import chainsaws from East Texas. |
Editorials are only made by fools like me;
but only God can make a "visually
pleasing, extremely solid object."
horses, don't they?" July 23, 2004 Column