A row of 91 Osage orange trees will be chopped down to make way for a new multiuse path along West Wilson Bridge Road.
A group of residents who are opposed to removing the trees met with city officials Oct. 7 but did not seem to change any minds about plans to build the 8-foot-wide bike path along the north side of the roadway, just east of the Olentangy Parklands.
The path, funded with a state grant, will connect the parklands with the Shops at Worthington Place and North High Street. It will follow a path along West Wilson Bridge to Old West Wilson Bridge Road, where it will share the road with vehicles to the rear of the mall.
Plans call for eventually extending the path east to the Worthington Community Center and to Westerville and other points east, Worthington parks and recreation director Darren Hurley said.
It is the portion of the proposed path from the parklands to Old Wilson Bridge Road that concerns neighbors, who say the stately, 65-year-old Osage orange trees provide shade for walking and screening between residential areas to the south and the acres of parking lots on the other side of the trees.
The 4-foot cement sidewalk along that stretch will become and 8-foot-wide asphalt multiuse path for cyclists, joggers and walkers.
Extending the path to the south would create a dangerous situation because it would be too close to the street, Hurley said. Widening it to the north necessitates removing the trees, he said. The female trees drop fruit and would create a hazard for path users, he said.
About 60 percent of the trees are dead or declining and would have to be removed in coming years anyway, he said.
Hurley said he advocates removing all of the Osage oranges at once. Removing a few probably would cause damage to the ones remaining, he said.
"Let's just do it and get a fresh start and get new ones in there," he said.
A new landscaping plan has not been drawn but would include a thick row of trees, city officials said.
JoAnna Kralian was one of several residents of Ville Charmante to attend the meeting. She said the trees provide a valuable canopy that cannot be replaced. She said she would prefer to see them die a natural death than to be removed wholesale by the city.
"I challenge that these trees have a limited life," she said.
The plans must be approved by the Worthington Municipal Planning Commission and City Council, both of which historically are particular about landscaping plans, said Bonnie Michael, a Worthington council member who attended the meeting.