Thanks to the Ahwatukee Board of Management and a horticulturist who works for the city, some badly needed trees are being planted along a stretch of 48th Street and the Warner-Elliot Loop.
The trees are the result of some persistence by ABM and a sympathetic ear from Erik Wilson, a horticulturalist with the Phoenix Street Transportation Department.
Just over a month ago, ABM contacted the City of Phoenix to request what ABM Assistant General Manager Karen Young called “sorely needed landscape services.”
Desolate entry medians on Elliot and Warner Roads that include numerous dead bushes and untrimmed palm trees had created an eyesore, according to ABM staff.
In addition, ABM is also seeking removal of dead trees and replacement of trees previously removed along Warner-Elliot Loop and 48th Street.
So, in keeping with its decades-old tradition of maintaining relationships with city staff for landscape maintenance, adequate police presence, combatting graffiti, sidewalk repairs and other services, ABM staffers went to work.
While ABM’s responsibilities are limited to area it owns, board President Christopher Gentis said, “It has been a long-standing priority of past and present boards of directors that ABM work with city officials and departments to ensure Ahwatukee receives expected city services.
“Ensuring that a quality of life Ahwatukee residents enjoy continues is important,” Young added. “Mature, shady trees and vibrant, healthy landscape add intangible ‘life’ and enjoyment to a community.”
So Young and her boss, ABM General Manager Robert Blakesly, met with streets officials, showing them photos and sharing their concerns.
Young said she told the city officials about “the poor appearance and maintenance of city-owned landscape throughout Ahwatukee” but was especially concerned about the shoddy appearance of the community’s “front doors” from I-10.
Wilson didn’t need photographs, Young reported, noting that as a supervisor over landscape maintenance in the area, “he was aware of the issues, as well as his very limited financial resources.”
Young said Wilson explained that medians just off the freeways were installed by the Arizona Department of Transportation but, once built, became the city’s responsibility to maintain.
Wilson has separate financial resources to maintain and improve different areas – some from the county and some from the city.
The first few medians off I-10 are maintained by county funds. Other areas, including Warner-Elliot Loop and 48th Street, are maintained with city funds.
Wilson advised Young and Blakesley that the county fund could be used to add trees and shrubs in the medians.
ABM also requested new granite be installed in those medians, and Wilson agreed to try to get it.
Young said the meeting also involved a discussion of “the distressed appearance of mature trees” in the medians, and Wilson said he was looking into it.
Wilson said he had money for trees only from his city fund, and he and Blakesley and Young said they wanted to secure as many trees as possible for Ahwatukee. They secured 44 trees for 48th Street and 103 trees for Warner-Elliot Loop.
The 48th Street tree installation will be followed by a similar project on the Warner-Elliot Loop, Young said.
Design for the medians will take more time and trees because city funds are limited. “Wilson advised he has 18 other parties wanting a share of the 1,000 trees he has available in the city fund,” Young said.
The day after the meeting, Young and Blakesley set out early to mark the locations for trees along both thoroughfares, while Wilson directed his crews to ensure the irrigation system along 48th Street is functional after more than a decade of nonuse. There are also numerous tree stumps that will need to be ground.
Young and Blakesley selected the trees from a city-approved list and picked 11 ironwood, 18 Red Push Pistache and 15 Southern Oaks.
“The species chosen are drought tolerant and indigenous to Arizona’s climate, as well as slow growing and noninvasive,” Young said.
Existing Sissoo trees, known for their invasive root systems, have caused significant damage to city property – as evidenced by cracked and lifted sidewalks throughout city right of ways, Young said. The city no longer plants Sissoo trees in its rights of way.
The Warner-Elliot Loop has been approved for approximately 103 new trees, and planting will likely begin this winter, according to Wilson. The median redesign, the original focus of the ABM’s contact, will be addressed as the third stage of the revitalization project, Young said.