Conway picks candidates for new trees

CONWAY | City officials on Monday narrowed to five their list of tree types that potentially could replace the honey locust trees that now line sections of Main Street and Third and Fourth Avenues.

That list will get shorter in two weeks, after officials walk through the city with a map of all trees downtown and decide what kinds will replace the honey locust and at which locations.

On Monday, city leaders decided they want shade for the downtown sidewalks and parking areas as well as some color and evergreen quality.

Officials have budgeted $17,500 in addition to $800 in grant money for the removal and replacement of the trees, which they hope to get started before the end of the 2006-07 fiscal year.

Trees currently in the downtown area were installed about 20 years ago.

Officials say they are ready to remove about 30 honey locust trees because of complaints about pods on sidewalks and in front of downtown businesses.

On the short list for consideration are a new kind of live oak tree called a highrise, more crepe myrtles, a flowering kousa dogwood tree, lace bark elm and river birch trees.

"You have to keep in mind do you want shape or the flowers _ what characteristic do you want?" City Arborist Wanda Lilly said during a slideshow presentation of various trees.

City Council members Vivian Chestnut, Alys Lawson and Jean Timbes attended the meeting with Mayor Greg Martin and several city staffers. Lawson said she would like to see blooming or green foliage at a different time of the year than other area trees to give the city some color.

"I think that canopy shape is what I had in mind where you can walk under it, cars can park under it and you don't have that cone shape you see so often," Lawson said of the lace bark elm tree.

"I think a row of dogwood would be nice too. It's a nice, Southern tree."

Ashley Davies, director of Conway Main Street USA, said business owners she spoke to before Monday's meeting like the idea of crepe myrtles, which already exist on Laurel and Elm Streets.

"September through December are really profitable months, and I think it makes sense to have something green in the downtown for that time," Davies said. "

City officials will meet with the group again on July 9 to do a walking tour of the downtown trees to decide where to put what kind of new trees.