Recognition that as many as 400 trees stand to be removed to make way for the space shuttle Endeavour is generating concern in the neighborhoods through which Endeavour is scheduled to be trucked next month.
It will be transported from LAX to its ultimate home at the California Science Center in Exposition Park..
Some utility poles and overhead lines would also have to be relocated to make room for the 85 ton orbiter with a wingspan of 78 feet. But in neighborhoods from Inglewood to Leimert Park, the bigger concern is for the loss of decades old trees that would be replaced, in many cases, with trees less fully grown.
Dozens of trees have already been removed along Manchester and Crenshaw Blvds in Inglewood.
Neighbors along the route say they look forward to welcoming the shuttle, but wonder if a different route could save trees.
"Of course there's a better way to do it,” said Johnnie Raines of the Neighborhood Council for the Leimert Park neighborhood, It faces the loss of trees on King and Crenshaw boulevards, where towering pines in the parkway have been tagged.
Still, the plan announced last month has its defenders, including Sabrina Barnes, Director of Parks in Inglewood. She says the city will be getting free replacements, two for one, to replace ailing ficus with other species of trees less likely to cause sidewalk and sewer damage. The Science Center has also pledged to pay for repairs to sidewalks damaged by the previous trees.
"So while we will be losing a few trees, we look at this as something that is going to improve the city’s tree canopy over the years," Barnes said, adding that she's been assured replanting would begin within two to three weeks of Endeavour's passage.
The Science Center considered the route’s impact on the streets, landscapes and neighborhoods and determined “this was the best route," Barnes said.
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Alternatives had been considered before being discarded, Jeffrey Rudolph, Science Center President, has indicated previously. Tuesday he was said to be in meetings and not available for further comment.
Inglewood City Councilman Michael Stevens expressed disappointment that a huge pine was reduced to a stump about the same distance from Crenshaw Blvd as a lesser tree left standing. He also wonders why the shuttle route could not continue on Manchester past Crenshaw Blvd to Figueroa Street, and then head north to the Science Center, thereby avoiding the trees on Crenshaw and King boulevards.
As it is, the stretch of Crenshaw to be traveled by Endeavour may be in for even more dramatic changes than replacement of trees and temporary relocation of utilities. Transportation planners envision a light rail line there someday.
Crews have finished removing most, if not all, of the 128 trees targeted in Inglewood. For the 265 targeted trees in South Los Angeles, hearings are expected next week.
Raines of the Neighborhood Council said he's pleased the Science Center has already agreed to protect trees planted three decades ago when the avenue formerly known as Santa Barbara was renamed to honor the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Raines hopes the Science Center will consider further modifying its plan to save more existing trees.