Changes planned on Section Street

Trees to be replaced, clock removed during soil tests


FAIRHOPE – Residents and visitors will see familiar Fairhope sights come down this month as part of Fairhope improvement projects.

The clock at the corner of Fairhope Avenue and Section Street has been temporarily removed while workers dig up the site in order to test the soil.

The willow oaks along Section Street will be cut down and replaced by smaller trees, Mayor Karin Wilson said at the Fairhope City Council meeting July 27.

“We have reached a point in the life cycle of some of our very large downtown trees, we mentioned this at the work session last, and they need to be replaced,” Wilson said.

“In the first phase, all trees along Section Street from Morphy Avenue south end to Oak Street, north end, will be replaced. This represents 55 trees, replaced with the Chinese pistache, a variety of red bush.”

The City Council voted in May to replace the trees.

In an earlier meeting, Richard Johnson, public works director, said the willow oaks can grow to a height of 85 feet, which is too tall for the downtown location. He said some trees are already more than 12 inches in diameter and are pushing up the curb at some locations.

The Chinese pistache grow to a maximum height of about 40 feet and are better suited to the area, he said.

Wilson said the smaller trees will also look better during the annual holiday season lighting of the trees. She said placing lights in the large trees was difficult, but the smaller trees will allow worker to completely wrap the branches.

Wilson also said city employees are working on plans for the upcoming lighting ceremony, including contingencies if the COVID-19 outbreak does not allow Fairhope to hold a large public gathering as in the past.

Johnson said the clock will be removed while workers test the soil at the site before the city buys the parcel.

The council voted Jan. 13 to buy the site at the at the northeast corner of Fairhope Avenue and Section Street. The city will pay half the purchase price of $525,000 with the Fairhope Single Tax Colony paying the rest of the cost. The site will become city property under the agreement.

The site is a popular gathering spot for residents and visitors but was a car dealership for decades in the 20th century. Johnson said underground fuel storage tanks are still buried at the corner.

The tests will determine if any fuel is left in the tanks and must be removed.

“We will start that work in the evening of Monday Aug. 3,” which is a week from today,” Johnson said at the July 27 work session. “We have a very aggressive schedule. We hope to have everything done and put back into place by the conclusion of Wednesday night, so day 3 and then hopefully on that Thursday, we’ll get the pavers put back down and the landscape put back in. We’re going to get some social media out, but we are going to take the clock down so we don’t damage it during this work and we’re going to remove the landscaping on that corner to be able to work freely.”

The City Council voted to approve spending up to $8,500 to remove any fuel found at the site.

Johnson said officials do not expect to find any substances left in the tanks.