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County works to remove ‘dangerous’ trees from roadside

Between county crews and Clifford Construction, more than 100 potentially dangerous trees were removed from the sides of Gulf County roadways between the Board of County Commissioners’ May 25 and June 26 meetings.

But the county still has a long way to go.

At the BOCC’s June 26 meeting, John Howell from Clifford, took to the podium to discuss his company’s progress along Guf County roads.

“We have contracts throughout the state of Florida with the Department of Transportation, and one of our contracts covers Gulf County… Commissioner Rich at the last meeting raised some issues that we needed to better address,” he said.

“… We’ve tried to address the trees in the right of way, but there are a few more steps we have to take, legalities, before we can take down trees outside of the right of way.”

Potentially hazardous trees, many of which were killed or badly damaged in Hurricane Michael, have become something of a mission for county officials, particularly County Commissioner David Rich, who has been calling on county employees in recent months to remove trees before they have the chance to become a danger to the public.

“Since the last meeting, when we talked about trees, John’s group has taken down 77 along (Highway) 71 and (Highway) 98,” said Mark Cothran, Gulf County public works director. “That’s 77 less that are going to fall across those roadways. Our crews took down another 20. Now, there’s probably more.”

Since the May meeting referenced by Cothran, a fallen tree caused significant damage to a log truck on Highway 71 after falling in a thunderstorm.

“Had it been something smaller, a family vehicle, it could have been catastrophic,” said Rich. “We talk about these trees falling and hurting people, and that’s our main concern.”

Going forward, County Administrator Michael Hammond said the county may need to consider being “tougher on property owners” who do not remove dangerous trees from near roadways.  He mentioned he might propose legislation on the matter at a future date, but no action to this effect was taken at the June meeting.

Meet the Editor

Wendy Weitzel, The Star’s digital editor, joined the news outlet in August 2021, as a reporter covering primarily Gulf County.

Prior to then, she interned for Oklahoma-based news wire service Gaylord News and for Oklahoma City-based online newspaper NonDoc.com during her four years at the University of Oklahoma, from which she graduated in May with degrees in online journalism and political science.

While at OU, Weitzel was selected as Carnegie-Knight News21 Investigative Fellow among 30 top journalism students from around the country. She also was senior editor managing a 12-person newsroom in coordination with Oklahoma Watch, a non-profit news organization in eastern Oklahoma.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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