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Controversial sidewalk widening project continues in Manitou Springs

June 13, 2017 Updated: June 13, 2017 at 2:46 pm
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About 25 Manitou Springs citizens tried to stop five historical trees from being cut down on Wednesday, May 10, 2017. The trees were located at Canon Ave. and Washington St. Photo by Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette

Just over a month after Manitou Springs residents locked hands around five historic trees on Canon Avenue in a failed effort to save them, the area is undergoing more demolition.

This time, the sidewalk that was once shadowed by the trees is being ripped up in preparation for a grant-funded, Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant, walkway.

Demolition will continue this week and next, Public Service Director Shelley Cobau said. Through traffic will be allowed on Canon Avenue, but there will be no on-street parking, she said. A parking lot in the area will stay open.

The widening project was a point of contention between residents and the city in May. At the time, residents argued the city was cutting down the trees solely to widen the sidewalk, which they claimed was already ADA compliant. The trees in question were made famous by resident artist C.H. Rockey's "Tree Couple" poem.

The sidewalk is 48 inches wide; the ADA requires a minimum width of 36 inches.

The city said it had to cut down the trees after an arborist said the elms were dying from an infestation of European elm scale, which weakened branches and made the trees a potential threat to cars and pedestrians below.

An April 11 report to City Council makes it difficult to determine which project was proposed first, the sidewalk widening or the tree removal.

In the report, seeking approval for a $62,487 contract with Concrete Experts, Cobau wrote: "The sidewalk will require widening which will mean removal of the trees that are between the sidewalk and curb. These trees have been examined by an arborist . and need to be removed."

Cobau said citizens still can claim a piece of the trees for free at the Public Services Facility, 101 Banks Place. They have mulch and "a lot of wood" available, most of which can be picked up at any time for free. Those getting wood from the historic trees must coordinate with Cobau.

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