In 1998, the Florida Department of Transportation widened U.S. Highway 41, in the town of Lutz, in Hillsborough County, Florida. Trees were planted in medians on the highway; they helped beautify the state road. Now, due to budget shortfalls, the plan is to axe them.
The Florida Department of Transportation installed the landscaping; however, they didn’t allocate funds for the maintenance of the trees. When the agency determined that it could not afford the maintenance, the county took over that responsibility, according to Hillsborough County spokesman Steve Valdez.
County officials now say that they cannot afford to maintain the medians and want to turn control back over to the FDOT. However, FDOT will only take over the obligation if landscaping guidelines they have established are followed, which calls for trees and shrubs to be removed and sod to be planted in their place.
More than 100 community members showed up at a recent meeting. Most showed opposition to any tree removal. "What we want to do is understand the maintenance agreements we have with the Department of Transportation, and provide a status of the project as to where it currently is," Hillsborough County Director of Public Information Service Willie Puz told attendees.
"All you have to do is do your job," an upset Lutz resident told officials. "Keep everything that is there. Further beautify it and everyone is happy."