Plan would give new treescape to Darlington’s Courthouse
By Bobby Bryant, Editor
The City of Darlington is making Darlington County an offer: If you’ll pull up nearly all the trees flanking the Courthouse on the Public Square, we’ll plant new ones. That is basically the proposal that City Council plans to bring before County Council, Mayor Curtis Boyd said last week. Boyd said they hope to use a $5,000 beautification grant from Duke Energy, in cooperation with Darlington County, to redo the trees around the Courthouse. Most of them are the once-popular Bradford pear, said city planner Lisa Bailey – a tree now considered an “invasive” species. This would not be part of Darlington’s recently announced $825,000 “streetscape project,” Bailey said. The county’s share of the tree project would more or less equal the city’s, Boyd said. “Our proposal to the county is that we will buy the trees, and they (would) tear the (existing) trees down,” Boyd said at a Dec. 7 council meeting. Under the proposal, all of the roughly two dozen trees surrounding the cube-shaped Courthouse would be removed, except for the two large oak trees on the north side, near the fountain. Nelly Stevens holly trees and Southern sugar maples would be planted around the perimeter, and two willow oaks would be placed at opposite ends of the south side. The mayor said city planners looked at various options and costs. Lining the Courthouse with all holly trees, he said, would run about $6,000. The city’s Tree Board, Boyd said, recommended alternating holly trees with Southern sugar maples. Bailey said officials have been discussing ways to eliminate the Bradford pears around the Courthouse for a long time. “Thirty years ago, Bradford pears were the ‘it’ tree for street trees,” Bailey said, and they were planted all over town. Now they’ve been labeled an invasive species, and South Carolina plans to ban the nursery sale of the Bradford pear in 2024. Why? According to Clemson University, the Bradford pear contributes to the growth of “one of the worst invasive plant species in the region,” the Callery pear, which sprouts “nasty thorns.” Also, Clemson says, the Bradfords have “a pungent odor” and they tend to snap apart during strong storms. Bailey said Darlington has slowly been removing Bradford pears from city-owned land when possible.