Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Palms Of North Roosevelt

Stopped at the triangle by a traffic light I realized the palm trees lining the main road into Key West will soon be -horrors!-torn down. And -double horrors!!- might not be replaced with more coconut palms after the street is rebuilt. The city has announced that in order to save money looking after these high maintenance trees they may be replaced them with less expensive palms after the Boulevard (the informal name given to North Roosevelt Boulevard) is re-built. However the public outcry is putting that idea on hold at the moment. These palms are the trees planted around the Marriott Beachside Hotel which sits at the Triangle (as the entrance to the city of Key West is known).They seem to be flourishing quite nicely.
How did this cyclist get here in an essay about the palms of the Boulevard? That's because the Boulevard is lined on it's north shore not only by palm trees but also by a wide, spacious sidewalk/bike path.The road is five lanes wide, including a center turn lane that few motorists know how to use properly so perhaps it might give way to a center median with turn lanes to not confuse the poor dears navigating their cages. The coconut palm in Key west is an odd tree. It's not a native plant around here but it has become by default the symbol of tropical vacations world wide. Images of luxurious rest are enhanced by a picture of an artful palm draped over a sandy beach with turquoise water filling the background. On those grounds alone the predictable groundswell of opposition to change has arisen across the city. The fear is that tourists will turn away in droves if North Roosevelt were to be lined with anything other than non native coconut palms. No other palm will do. Indeed no other tree will do, and so loud has the clamor grown the city is backpedaling to avoid charges of tree fascism and worse. You still won't be allowed to park vehicles longer than 20 feet (6.5 meters if you're from Quebec) on city streets.The city in it's defense claimed the coconut palms are expensive to maintain as they produce tons of fronds, as I know myself thanks to my dozen mature coconut trees at home. They also produce nuts that fall and hurt people and damage things and become missiles in hurricanes. My mailbox looks like it is in a war zone as I can't cut down the coconuts fast enough. So you might say I, a non city resident, am sympathetic to the city's plight.However rational thinking is nowhere to be seen. Making the argument that the city spends money unnecessarily to maintain these trees is a point of view that carries no water for the "anti-government-waste" nutters who have done an about face and now insist the city government waste money maintaining a fresh crop of coconuts after the street is rebuilt.
The bike path went through the same rectal probe of indignation when it was a crumbling cement path and the complaints about the potholes were incessant enough to fill a novel. I used to hate cycling the assault course that was the old bike path as it crumbled underneath my tires.Finally the city spent hundreds of thousands paving the path and told citizens it was a temporary measure until North Roosevelt was completely rebuilt by the State of Florida, a project finally due to get underway next year and last two years. Then the complaints came in that the path was black and going to absorb heat and be too hot for people to ride comfortably... Date palms like those shown above are unacceptable. Royal palms were also mooted as were native thatch palms. Indeed there are 2600 species of palm trees in existence but the demand is for cocos nucifera. Of course North Roosevelt is pretty ugly so the argument in favor of keeping at least one side of the road looking pretty isn't completely lost on me.
However the passionate voices in support of the palm trees aren't quite so loud when it comes to some decent landscaping on the business side of the Boulevard which is, to put it politely, a mess for the most part.
There are some exceptions. I am quite fond of the gumbo limbos flourishing in front of the Home Depot Parking lot.
Even motorcycles are enhanced by the presence of palm fronds. In the background the old Key West Diner remains empty awaiting a new tenant, behind it's carefully landscaped sidewalk.The Salt Run Bridge is just a brief interruption to the march of the palm trees toward First Street and Truman Avenue.
I parked my Bonneville under these spindly trees planted in the Walgreens lot. Low maintenance trees apparently preferred by the profit driven business class.
Not good enough we are told for a city managing a budget. Ah, irony, where is thy sting?