BY JUDY SHERIDAN
Parker County Commissioners approved a change order for the Aledo Trail couplet project last week, authorizing the removal of a $38,000 concrete block retaining wall designed to protect a huge tree in front of Aledo City Hall from the damaging effects of a change in grade.
Other changes included adding a $14,000 6-inch pipe under drain to channel seeping subsurface water at the couplet’s westbound leg — an unforseen complication — exchanging pavement markings and raising a box inlet to ease slope maintenance.
The combined change order was a cost savings for the county, subtracting $9,900 from the $3.3 million contract.
In describing the tree to commissioners, Freese & Nichols construction manager David Payne called it “a staple within the City of Aledo,” that had been determined to be “unsalvageable.”
“They’ve had several arborists come out and look at it, and they’re saying there’s no need to save it,” he said. “That’s what that block retaining wall was for, to salvage that tree.
“They’re saying we don’t need to do that now, so we’re going to pull that block retaining wall out and save them some amount of money there, and that tree’s basically going to go away ... in time. I mean, it’s not going happen overnight.”
Aledo Public Works Director Gordon Smith said he gave the directive to remove the wall and bring the soil up to the tree’s base after a discussion initiated by project managers.
“It was presented the tree has the possibility of living without the extra measures of an 850-square-foot concrete block wall designed to help mitigate effects,” he emailed.
Smith said Gay Larson, a Parker County master gardener who has worked with the city on several landscape projects, was present during the discussion.
Larson identified the 18-inch diameter tree as a cedar elm, he said, and was the city’s contact for the tree’s history and condition.
“The tree to our knowledge has been on the property prior to City Hall and no special designation has been attached,” Smith said. “It is full of mistletoe with signs of dying in a couple areas.”
Smith said the tree’s condition has remained the same during construction. He said it has been determined that cutting it back and removing the mistletoe might allow it to live longer.
When Aledo Trail was designed, Smith said, engineers were asked to protect the existing trees — many of them oaks — as much as possible.
When eight large trees had to be felled prior to construction, two 4-5-inch diameter “memorial” trees were transplanted to Community Center grounds.
The Aledo Trail Project, which has been stalled due to issues with AT&T lines, should start up again soon, Parker County Public Information Officer Joel Kertok said.