Entrenched

irwin 0419
A stately evergreen, perhaps too near a very dirty Hollywood curb offering overflow parking for college kids. On yet another gray day. Sigh.

These days, it’s all about the digging, with more in the future — from an unexpected quarter.

The other day Lynn brought in a flyer that had been left in our mailbox. Dutiful postal employee that she is, she was not happy that it was illegally in the box without a stamp. To those of us among the unwashed, that infraction seemed far less important than the contents of the flyer.

It was from the City of Gunnison, and — without any further public warning that I’m aware of, although I’ve been remiss in my newspaper reading lately — promises massive upheaval for our subdivision. Couched as great news, with exclamation marks, it tells of “big plans!” for the Palisades this summer: every street is getting completely ripped up and rebuilt.

“A full depth reclamation of asphalt” will be joined by removal of the “Hollywood” curbs and existing drainage pans. In its place comes 2.5 inches of new asphalt, a 24-inch curb and gutter with a six-inch curb back, and extension of the storm water collection system.

While I was puzzling over why I hadn’t heard so much as a peep about a project of this magnitude, and just how much this might cost, Lynn zeroed in on the real concern: how it could affect us. “No one’s going to be able to look at our house,” she noted, adding, “They’ll probably do this right while we’re trying to move.”

There’s a meeting Wednesday to address questions and concerns, so I guess I’d better go find out what’s what, but I remain baffled by the scope and probable cost of this project.

Our city always has healthy reserves. In fact, our reserves so offended one city councilor of a few years ago that he convinced the rest of council to pass an ordinance mandating that some of this be spent. And I believe the city budget always anticipates repair of something like three streets annually, although sometimes it’s the same three streets.

That might be the problem with always going with the lowest bidder. One year, probably more years ago than I’m thinking, Spruce Street was repaved. And the very next summer, Spruce Street was repaved again. This pattern seems to have been borne out every summer since: a street gets paved, and the next year it gets paved again. Those are the moments when government spending seems rather wasteful.

As a taxpayer, I wonder how necessary it is that we rip up every last street in the Palisades. The project is called “The Palisades Road and Drainage Improvements,” so there’s your motivation. And after complaining loudly and bitterly about Lake Palisades, which extended for a full block this winter, you’d think I’d be in favor. But formation of that lake seemed far more a function of a poor “plow plan” than anything else. New asphalt won’t fix that.

I will say, there’s a constant depression of standing water right across the street from us. I used to think the elderly woman who lived there had a broken sprinkler system, but city people looked at it several times, and that woman has since been replaced by two other owners, and the little street pond has persisted throughout.

These streets were all constructed in the 1960s, and while “crack sealing” takes place on a regular basis, I’m not sure when asphalt was last laid down. The city used to engage in “chip and seal,” and I hated that, because it left dangerous little rocks everywhere. It was sticky and rocky and hard to ride a bike through. And now that fad is finally gone, so there has to have been new asphalt laid at some point.

As a former kid bike rider, I’d like to take a moment to mourn the demise of the Hollywood curbs. Instead of a vertical curb, our sidewalks gently slope down to the gutter, allowing one to ride a bike up and down the gutter and sidewalk the entire length of the street. Or you can just ride your bike from the street to the lawn at any given point, no thought required. It also allows college students to park half their vehicle fleet all over their lawn, no thought required.

Unbeknownst to you, I have paused here for a sad meditative moment, struck by the wonder if all of this deconstruction will require the removal of our huge evergreen in the front yard. It butts right against the sidewalk; I’m sure its roots reach out into the soon-to-be-torn-up street; and several branches overhang the street, perhaps impeding the city’s new ability to plow right along the vertical curb line.

As sad as this thought is, giving me great pause, it does conveniently offer a segue to the other digging impacting my life, no matter how nominally: the backhoe has been hard at work this week out at the Some Day Ranch, and it has me concerned about the fate of my baby cottonwood.

Building a house requires lots of digging. There’s the foundation, of course, but — because all lines are buried in this development — electricity has to run from the meter all the way from the southeast corner of our lot to the box near the northwest corner of our house. And the well, on the east edge, has to connect to the house, happily on the east side nearby. The sewer, of course, hooks up at the northwest edge of the lot, and it’s running from the northeast side of the house, right past my baby cottonwood.

Most of the cottonwoods seem to be of the same vintage, and that vintage is old. They are all 90 feet tall or more (taller than the evergreen here, even — and older), and while we were under contract with our lot, the tree expert estimated they are all on the downslope of their lifespans. And then there’s the baby, the only notable evidence of a new generation coming along behind.

I tasked Dusty with sparing its life at the outset of this project, and I must have been quite stern, because several subcontractors have mentioned looking out for it. He also had the Port-o-Potty placed near it, keeping plows, bobcats, trucks and trailers from running into or over it. But not the backhoe. And yesterday, as I was examining this massive trench, I noticed the proximity to my little tree.

There isn’t anywhere else for the trench to have gone, and Dusty was adamant: “Jay David is the best backhoe operator I’ve ever seen.” Dusty is feeling confident my little tree will survive. I didn’t check out the collateral damage, but any roots to the east will not have survived, so I’m going to have to hope the roots in all other directions will be enough to keep it rooted.

I’m also going to have to hope a couple other things: 1) The gas line can share space with the sewer trench — otherwise, another massive dig rips through our lot; and 2) We don’t have to go with Century Link for internet service, since their box is located through all the non-baby cottonwoods at the northeast edge of the lot.

I meant all afternoon yesterday to ask either Dusty or Jay about the gas line — with the Durham, N.C., explosion so close to mind, maybe it’s a bad idea, should you ever have to dig up your sewer, to have gas in the same trench — but the question didn’t get asked.

Thus I didn’t dig up any answers to my tree questions, either there or here. I’ll have to see what I can unearth at the meeting next Wednesday and from Dusty once he returns from vacation. I’ll let you know if I come up with any dirt. (I should just stop right here, no?)

trench 0419
The start of the sewer trench, before reaching the baby cottonwood. Off to the left are the piles of dirt from the well trench. As well.

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