TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KLIX) – If you visited downtown Twin Falls this morning, you’ve noticed it looks different than it did just a few days ago.

More than 160 trees that once lined Main Avenue, giving shade to downtown businesses and pedestrians, have been cut down. All that is left of them are memories and 3-foot stumps, and the latter also will eventually be removed.

The project is part of the redesign of the downtown area. New trees more adaptable to an urban setting – and more colorful – will be planted this fall.

Four varieties of tree will be planted, said city spokesman Joshua Palmer – Chanticleer pear, Newport plum, maple and tulip. The pear and plum trees will flower in the spring, and all of the trees will color their leaves in the fall. Combined, the trees will turn different colors for each season, Palmer said – “white, pink, red and green.”

Not much growth will be noticeable with the new trees the first year because once they’re planted it takes time for them to establish their root system. But after that first year they’ll grow outward and upward. The trees will be planted with steel grates covering the dirt that surrounds them, adding a more modern look to the setting.

Palmer said Main Avenue's old trees, planted in the 1970s, needed to be removed because they were gangly and out of place for what the city has planned for the downtown area. Some of them had shed their leaves due to lack of moisture.

Photo by Andrew Weeks

The trees also developed root systems that buckled sidewalks, increased concerns about pedestrian safety and obstructed access for individuals requiring wheelchairs or walkers.

“If we had a choice of keeping the trees and retaining safe accessibility to downtown, we would certainly have elected to keep the existing trees,” said Dan Brizee, chairman of the Board of Directors for the Twin Falls Urban Renewal Agency. “But unfortunately when they were planted about 40 years ago, it was understood that they would eventually grow out of their footprint. We plan to replace them with a variety of trees that are full of color and are sustainable in urban areas.”

Removal of the trees prepares the way for the five-block Main Avenue redisgn project, which will last from April through fall, when the new trees are planted. The project includes replacing and upgrading deteriorating infrastructure, redesigning streets, sidewalks and landscaping.

When crews cut down the trees this past weekend – work began on Friday and ended Sunday – they left 3-foot stumps for a couple of reasons: so pedestrians won’t trip over low-lying stumps, and to make it easier to pull out the roots later this year.

Now that the trees have been removed, the buildings that line Main Avenue are much more noticeable. That perhaps is a positive thing for business owners, Palmer said, but it also is a reminder to some owners that their business might need a little sprucing up.

Without trees the downtown area looks bare, stripped of its covering, but not for long. Once the new trees are planted and the downtown project is complete, he said he believes it’ll be something that will make residents proud.

Some downtown business owners believe the same thing.

Photo by Andrew Weeks

“I think when all is said and done it’ll be nice,” said Caleb Drake, owner of Advantage Archery. “But getting there is going to be a challenge.”

The basement of his business has been flooded several times because, he said, of the work crews are doing installing dry utilities in the alleyways. As for the trees, Drake said he’s been in his shop for nine years, and although the old trees were messy and probably not the best species for a downtown setting they provided welcome shade during the warmer days.

“You walk out and look down Main Avenue right now and it looks way different than what we’ve ever seen it,” he said.

The open view is what Bobbie Coonce likes about the developments that took place this past weekend.

“At first I was unsure about it,” said Coonce, who is assistant manager of the Idaho Youth Ranch Thrift Store. “But then I really looked at it and thought how it opens things up a lot more downtown, especially the old buildings. You can see them a lot better.”

But, she said, she’s heard other Main Avenue tenants voice differing views.

_____

Reporter Andrew Weeks may be reached at Andrew.Weeks@townsquaremedia.com or 737-6025.