ROCKLEDGE, FL. – Brevard County Public Works officials are working closely with residents along Rockledge Drive to improve road conditions and to also address public safety concerns regarding overgrown trees and limbs that pose accessibility issues for motorists, emergency and other high-profile vehicles.
The scenic 2.5-milelong road – popular for bicycling, jogging and walking, and leisure drives along Indian River Lagoon is located in an unincorporated area south of Rockledge. It is targeted for repaving beginning in 2023, at a cost of $428,000.
County officials say the tree limbs overhanging the road present a safety hazard for vehicles, including firetrucks, garbage trucks, school buses and recreation vehicles. The County is focusing on traffic safety, but is also working to address concerns from residents who fear any tree cutting could be detrimental to the ambiance of their neighborhood.
“We have and are continuing in our pursuit to be sensitive to all environmental, aesthetic, legal and safety concerns regarding Rockledge Drive trees and acknowledge its designation as part of the National Scenic Byway,” said Public Works Director Marc Bernath. “We are proceeding in a manner which is as transparent as possible and providing options for all property owners involved as we understand this is a very sensitive issue. The County would love to avoid displacing all trees, but unfortunately it’s not that simple. Some trees, based on their vertical height or horizontal distance to the road, do not meet State safety requirements.
Rockledge Drive was designated a scenic drive by the Florida Legislature in 1965.
The state requires clearance of 14 feet over roads, yet some of the trees along Rockledge Drive offer less than 13 feet of clearance. A County arborist has conducted two assessments of Rockledge Drive and identified 37 trees that are in need of trimming or removal to comply with state safety requirements. Affected property owners have been notified and the County is considering – pending approval by the Board of County Commissioners — a funded voluntary tree exchange program in order to re-establish the canopy over time, and to also mitigate future safety hazards by placing the trees farther back from the road. Ongoing free on-site consultations with the County arborist are available to residents.
The County will also meet with Rockledge Drive residents to address general concerns and questions about the planned tree trimming and removal process.
“We plan to reconstruct large segments of Rockledge Drive as early as Fiscal Year 2023,” Bernath said. “Our arborist is very concerned that some of these trees will not survive. We believe we are doing everything possible to work with residents to address their concerns.”