Trees saved: DOT stops cutdown plan

Transportation secretary Buck Limehouse announced today that 45 new trees blocking billboards along Cayce’s Airport Boulevard would be staying right where they are.

Limehouse said through a spokesman that issuing an encroachment permit, then revoking it, “is inconsistent with the way we do business” at the state Department of Transportation.

“For that reason, Mr. Limehouse has reversed the action that would require removing those trees,” agency spokesman Pete Poore said. “So in essence the trees will remain where they are.”

One hundred crape myrtles, little gem magnolias, shumard oaks and lace-bark elms were planted in Cayce and Springdale a year ago. The $31,000 landscaping project was done with donations by local governments and businesses.

But in recent weeks, the DOT contacted Keep the Midlands Beautiful, which coordinated the project, notifying the group that the trees must be moved and replaced with low-growing shrubs.

The reason? They were planted in front of billboards.

State Sen. Nikki Setzler, D-Lexington, said Limehouse assured him the trees would be left alone.

“I’m just glad we have been able to work it out in the public’s best interest in a way that is reasonable and responsible and not a waste of money -- money and effort,” Setzler said. “A lot of good people worked very hard on this beautification project.”

Setzler said he received lots of phone calls after The State ran an article Saturday saying the trees were to be removed.

Lamar Advertising’s Scott Shockley said late today that he had not gotten word.

His company has four billboards along Airport Boulevard, between I-26 and the entrance to the airport.

Tree advocates were delighted.

“Fabulous. Wonderful,” said Susie Heyward, who serves on the board of Columbia Green.

“We have got some new heroes.”