Concerns About Long Beach Oak Tree

The Long Beach campus of USM is known for its majestic live oaks. But some say one of the school's old oak trees has become a safety hazard and should be removed.

The oak tree in question is near the intersection of Beach Park Avenue and Westbound Highway 90. Public comments to the newspaper linked that tree to a fatal accident last week and suggested it should be cut down in the name of safety.

But WLOX News found that's not necessarily the case.

Drivers leaving the Long Beach campus on Beach Park must move far enough forward, past the stop line, to see oncoming traffic beyond the large live oak.

Julian Allen works at the law enforcement academy on campus and drives through the intersection almost every day.

"The tree becomes a problem if somebody's not paying real good attention. There is the potential to pull up to that intersection, take a quick glance down, and that tree can hide the inside lane here," Allen said.

Some who've called for cutting down the tree say it contributed to the accident that killed an elderly woman at this intersection last week. But the accident report makes no mention of that.

"Never had any problem with that tree," Mary Porter said.

Porter was close friends with the woman killed. She doesn't blame the tree.

"You can easily see the traffic coming right from where we are right this minute. No problem. You just have to stop and judge. But there is no reason to cut that tree down."

WLOX News checked with Long Beach police about the number of accidents.

There were seven accidents at Beach Park and Highway 90 last year, and three so far this year.

We compared those numbers with another intersection just west of the campus.

At Nicholson and Highway 90 the numbers are nearly identical. There were six accidents last year and three so far this year.

Most drivers we questioned say the oak tree isn't a problem when they pull out.

"No, not that bad," one driver told us.

Mary Gobert says the tree should not come down.

"I think at all costs we need to save the oak tree. I would prefer to see a caution light here or a traffic light. But not get rid of the oak tree," Gobert said.

Only one driver told us the tree should go.

"That been a hazard for years," he said. "I'd love to see it come down."

Right now there are no plans to cut down the tree, and no plans for installing any type of warning sign at the intersection.