If you go to the Marketplace plaza on U.S. 41 and Vanderbilt Beach Road in Collier County this week, you'll notice the aesthetics are a bit lacking. That's because the 140-plus mature live oak trees that once grew in the parking lot have been cut down.
"It took my breath away to see them all gone," said Sandy Doyle, a resident of the nearby Pelican Bay community. Doyle and others had petitioned for the trees to stay.
"How can they take 145 beautiful trees that survived a practically class 4 hurricane?" Doyle said, referring to Hurricane Irma. "How can they go and just cut them down?"
She said the live oaks provided much-needed shade for some parking spaces at Marketplace. Now, those trees have been turned to wood chips and sawdust.
"This wasn't just a knee-jerk reaction," said Andrew Saluan, property manager of Marketplace. "This has been coming about over several years."
Saluan said many of the trees were blocking the tops of the light poles, making the parking lot dark and dangerous at night.
"After long, hard discussions with lighting engineers and everybody in between, the conclusion was that the existing oak trees were just growing into those light poles," he said.
Saluan said removing them was the only feasible way to brighten up the lot at night. He said that new landscaping will solve the aesthetic problem, and will include red maples, gumbo limbos and smaller live oaks.
"I do hope that," Doyle said. "Because it's so barren."
Saluan said the re-planting will begin by the end of the week, and should be completed by Christmas.