The Utah Transportation Commission has opted not to alter a section of roadway through Provo Canyon, dooming four acres of 100-year-old Gambel oak brush.
Julie Mack, Provo, asked the commission several months ago to alter the proposed Provo Canyon road design to spare the trees, which are north of Bridal Veil Falls. Mack is a member of the Provo Canyon Design Advisory Committee, a citizens' group working with the Utah Department of Transportation to fine-tune the proposed roadway.The new road alignment cuts through the grove, and Mack is disappointed the commission chose not to avoid it.
"What makes them (the trees) so unique is these are completely straight and have reached a height of 60 feet," Mack said. "It's not that the variety of trees is so rare, it's how they've grown and that the age of the trees is rare. It would have made a beautiful addition to the road to split the road and drive through the oak forest."
But circumventing the Gambel oak trees, commonly called scrub oak, wouldn't have been cheap - UDOT estimated altering the roadway would have cost an additional $1.5 million.
Commission members decided last week that the "cost benefit ratio was way out of proportion," said Kevin Beckstrom, spokesman for the Utah Department of Transportation.
The commission also spotted another minus in Mack's request: Avoiding the trees would have required more used of retaining walls and guardrail.
And, redesigning road plans would have set the project back three months, Beckstrom said.
"The oak in there is not a rare plant," Beckstrom said. "It is available throughout the canyon and throughout the state."
Mack acknowledges sparing the trees would have been expensive, but so is clearing the area and revegetating it.
"You really can't place a value on trees that are over 100 years old," Mack said. "We gave it our best shot and we just have to go on now."