Downtown Lexington's new sidewalks are almost ready for the many visitors expected to arrive later this month, but the sidewalks on West Vine Street are dotted with newly planted trees that are dead or dying.
Some have lost virtually all their leaves. Some still have foliage, but it is brown and shriveled.
On Wednesday, officials decided to yank those trees and replace them before the Sept. 25 start of the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.
The contractor, Fayette Garden Center, will absorb the cost of replacement, said Susan Straub, a spokeswoman for Mayor Jim Newberry.
About one-third of the 44 London planetrees planned for that section of the street were planted in the hot, dry conditions of the last few weeks and now need replacing. The trees cost the city $372 each.
Karen Angelucci, chairwoman of the Lexington Tree Board, said the trees should not have been planted until the sidewalk construction was completed.
The sidewalks are designed to be more tree-friendly than most. Some of the openings are 10 feet long and have a rock-soil mixture that allows roots to grow easily, even under concrete. There will be an underground irrigation system when the work is completed, but it is not working yet.
"They're doing the right thing, but they just dropped the ball by planting them too soon," Angelucci said. "As soon as they got 2 feet of streetscape in, they planted a tree."
George Milligan, the official in charge of the project, said the contractor was trying to meet a deadline that was missed. Fayette Garden Center watered the trees every night, he said, adding that willow oaks planted under the same conditions along West Main Street are green and appear to be healthy.
Straub attributed the dead or dying tree problem to the pressure of doing many downtown improvements in a short period.
"In terms of why, there are just a lot of loose ends to be tied up before the games begin," she said. "There are trees on Main that are doing fine. We thought these would be fine if they were watered, and they weren't fine."