Motorists cruising through Brookings on U.S. 14 will see dozens of stately trees along sylvan Sixth Street ribboned in red. The ribbons protest the state Department of Transportation's plan to widen Sixth Street from Main to Medary and remove as many as 39 nice big trees.
Arboreal advocate Phyllis Cole-Dai is appalled. In an opinion column published in last Saturday's Brookings Register (evidently print edition only), Cole-Dai rightly notes that the leafy appearance of Sixth Street through the historic district makes a verdant oasis along the highway, a welcome break from the open prairie and from the concrete businessplex at the I-29 gateway. She says that instead of widening Sixth Street, Brookings should look at lowering speed limits, re-routing traffic, and promoting bicycle and pedestrian travel to reduce accidents. She also rejects the asphalt-über-alles thinking of the engineers and says Brookings should plant more trees, not fewer.
I agree whole-heartedly. I love trees, but I also love boulevards. The DOT would remove the boulveards and run the outside lanes of Sixth Street right up to the sidewalk. That makes walking along the highway less pleasant and more dangerous. Boulevards also provide a necessary buffer for snow removal. Without boulevards, the city plows throw piles of hard, heavy snow right onto the sidewalks, piles that even some snowblowers can't cut through. As I've seen in other snowy urban settings, a boulevardless highway usually becomes impassable for pedestrians in winter.
Cole-Dai is gathering hundreds of signatures online in the run-up to the Department of Transportation's public meeting on its Sixth Street plan on April 28 (that's next Monday, 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., Brookings Government Center, in the council chamber). If you're in town, drop by that meeting and tell the DOT to keep Brookings beautiful: keep the trees and the boulevards.