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Public supports Main Street plan that saves both trees and street parking
main street
The majority of attendees at Wednesday's public meeting supported saving most of the 100-year-old sycamore trees that line West Main Street, while also allowing for street parking. - photo by Journal file photo

Thanks to the voter approved Measure L — Local Roads First Transportation Funding — Turlock will soon have the funds needed to begin repairing the city's ever-worsening roadways. At the top of the Measure L project list is a complete reconstruction of the oldest part of West Main Street, something that everyone agrees is badly needed for one of Turlock's key thoroughfares. What members of the public have trouble agreeing on is just exactly how Main Street should look when it's done.

In previous meetings, public support was split between removing the sycamore trees that line the roadway in order to keep street parking or eliminating parking on one or both sides of the street to increase the landscape areas for the trees.

In the third of a series of public meetings held Wednesday on possible designs for West Main Street, the majority of those present supported Option 2, which  would keep parking on both sides of the street while saving as many as the historic sycamore trees as possible.

Milt Trieweiler — a Main Street resident and vocal supporter of saving the sycamore trees who implored the community to come together to save the historic trees that were planted in 1907 by the Women's Improvement Club of Turlock — said Option 2 was a compromise between those who wanted to save all the trees and those who needed street parking.

The Option 2 that was presented by Project Manager Nathan Bray would see all three of the sycamore trees removed on the south side of West Main Street, which would eliminate the current landscaping strip on that side and allow the road to shift to the south. Approximately four trees on the north side of West Main would also be removed due to making pedestrian sidewalk crossings Americans with Disabilities Act compliant.

Other plans presented at Wednesday's meeting included Option 1, which would eliminate parking on one side of the street and using that 12 feet of space to increase the landscaping strips on both sides of Main Street, and Option 3, which would eliminate parking on both sides of the street, widen the landscape strips and create a bike lane.

Although maintenance of sidewalks and street trees are the responsibility of homeowners in the City of Turlock, due to the street widening of this project the City will be installing new sidewalks and planting new street trees on the property owners' side of the sidewalk to replace the ones removed, no matter which option is selected.

Randall Brown, Turlock resident and professor of management at California State University, Stanislaus, said that Option 2 seems like a "very good compromise."

"I teach people how important a first impression is...and I think that's true also for a town. Anything we can do in Turlock to increase the impressions of the town we should," he said.

While a handful of other residents also spoke in favor of saving as many trees as possible while maintaining street parking, there were those who supported a different option for West Main Street.

Joel Murphy, a resident of West Main, questioned the wisdom of keeping the 100-year old sycamore trees which have caused the destruction of the adjacent sidewalks and contributed to the poor condition of the roadway.

Turlock's director of development services, Mike Pitcock, confirmed the destructive nature of sycamore trees.

"No matter what we do, when we put a sycamore next to a sidewalk we're going to have problems," he said.

When Trieweiler once again passionately advocated for keeping the historic sycamore trees, Murphy responded by saying that just because something is old doesn't mean it should be kept. He went on to say that if the city planted new trees now, "100 years from now...they'd be part of [our children's] history."

Murphy wasn't the only Turlock resident in favor of rethinking preserving the sycamore trees on West Main.

"I appreciate the trees and their historic value, but we should think about the future and the future users of the street, including bike lanes," said Marcus Tucker. "Safety ought to be our focus rather than the trees."

Pitcock said the next step in the West Main Street project process would be to present the design options and public input to the Turlock City Council at a meeting date yet to be announced.