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The Natural Cost of Beautifying Avenida Guadalupe

Rénder con arquería y pavimento

Actual Avenida Guadalupe

By Jesús Aguado

Some residents are raising objections to the city’s plans to replace the decades-old shade trees on Avenida Guadalupe as part of a major reconstruction plan that will significantly alter the appearance of that section of the avenue as well as the large makeshift vendor market stationed there.

In the street’s raised median strip, there are 30 ficus trees, a palm tree, a casuarina (Australian pine), a jacaranda, and a dead tree. In order to widen and improve the street, these trees will be uprooted and mostly replanted elsewhere in the city. In addition, the haphazard commercial facades on the street will be improved with a stone shopping arcade along the sidewalk to shelter the businesses and to provide a clear walking path for pedestrians along the avenue.

Although a group of residents oppose the government’s plan to remove trees, which will be transplanted to Bicentennial Park, the city’s trade unions, who represent the merchants in the area, are in favor of the change.

Finally coming to fruition

Antonio Soria, director of infrastructure and public works for the city, told Atención that the project to resurface Avenida Guadalupe has been in the works for several years. When the businesses of Plaza Guadalupe requested help from the city to do improvements, they presented the government with the arcade idea, which has now been folded into the current improvement project. The arcade will extend from calle San Rafael to Insurgentes.

When the city decided to resurface Avenida Guadalupe with stamped concrete, it presented the arcade idea to the city’s trade unions, who not only agreed to the reconstruction but committed to contributing more than 7,000 pesos to make the cantera and stone arcade a reality. That money will be collected from the merchants affected.

The arcade will have cantera-lined columns and arches, and a concrete roof.

With the new construction would also come changes: the city will more strictly regulate the business stands there, requiring that shopkeepers not use pedestrian space to display their merchandise. The city wants to leave a clear walking space for pedestrian customers, “like the arcades in the main squares [in the city],” said Soria.

The work will cost 7.5 million pesos. The municipal government will cover 70 percent of the cost, with the rest funded by the funds collected from merchants by the trade unions.

The work is expected to begin in October and finish in March 2020. The 21.5-million-peso resurfacing work is expected to begin September 20 and be complete in December.

Let’s save 41 trees

No one knows who planted the trees currently in Avenida Guadalupe’s median strip. Many merchants say it was the government more than 20 years ago, while government officials say it was residents. Wherever the plants came from, says Soria, it was not the best choice of species. With that in mind, says Lorena Patiño, a consultant on ecological issues to the Directorate of Sustainability and Environment, those species must be removed. They will be replaced by palo verde trees that will be planted along the sidewalk opposite the planned arcade.

“Public officials should be conscientious leaders. The government is at the service of the people and not vice versa,” says Victoria Delgado, a young resident in San Miguel who, with her partner is fighting to keep the trees there and says she has the support of others in town. “They need to present solid arguments for the removal of the trees, which help the environment.”

The activists say that environmental specialists have advised them that the distance between the trees guarantees that their roots have become interconnected. They are convinced that uprooting the trees would mean “the heart would break,” i.e. the roots, and even if the trees are transplanted, their chance of survival is almost nil.

It’s also the wrong time of year to move the trees, Delgado said, explaining that horticultural wisdom says the trees should only be transplanted between autumn and winter. The trees require pruning, Delgado said, and when they are dug up they will need a time to recover from the stress before being replanted.

In order for the trees to survive, all 33 must be uprooted at the same time, Delgado and her partner say. They also denounced what they termed “contradictory” statements by municipal environmental personnel, who they say initially claimed that the trees would be planted in schools so that the schools would be their “guardians,” but then later told the couple that the trees would be replanted in Bicentennial Park.

“If citizens remain silent, the authorities will continue to cut down trees,” said Delgado. “We want them to support nature.”

Every person can become a tree guardian, Delgado said. In fact, she said, there are residents who have committed to warn the couple if a tree on the street is touched, and to perhaps even form a human fence to protect it.

Coming up through the concrete

In an interview, Patiño said that the 30 ficus planted in the median strip are not native to the area.

“Someone came up with the idea that it would be the best option to plant, but now the trees are starting to push up the concrete,” he said. “These types of trees will look for water from surrounding pipes, and so the roots are damaging the infrastructure.”

According to Patiño, the casuarina will have to be sacrificed. The palm tree has no possibility of transplantation because it is not in the best of health, she said. The ficus and jacaranda will be replanted in Bicentennial Park.

It doesn’t matter that the roots are interconnected, said Patiño, because 80 percent of the species will survive. The city will prune the trees, he said, then make trenches to hydrate them. Later they will be removed—one by one—with light machinery and immediately planted in their new home.

For questions and clarifications on the subject, Soria invited concerned residents to contact the Public Works and Infrastructure Department, where he promised they will be provided with the information they require.

“Where have they been?”

Atención approached three out of the five trade union leaders in Plaza Guadalupe to ask if they knew about the project, if it had already been presented to them, and if they were in agreement with it. What follows are their responses:

Irinea Ramírez, whose guild includes 150 merchants:

“We are doing well. It is in progress. We will start next week. In my union, two or three merchants do not agree with the charge—[which will cost] 7,456 pesos per merchant. All progress requires change, and although this may cause inconvenience, it is a change that will improve the city. The majority rule. We hope it will be the beginning toward a second market project—to have a roof.”

Rubén Martínez, Unión Allende:

“We don’t want the trees removed, but if it is necessary, then go ahead. It is for the good of all.” His members approve of both the resurfacing and the arcade, he said.

Luisa González and Manuel Martínez, Maldonado Union:

“The projects are a benefit for us. There are 50 people in my guild, and most agreed to the projects. Those who do not are against it because of the contribution they must make. People want everything for free; we never want to pay for anything. But we have to do this work and make the businesses look pretty, different; that benefits both us and the people who come to buy from us.

“About the trees, with time, it will be beautiful. The trees will have a better space. Now they are mistreated. People tie ropes to them, they don’t water them. Cars bump into them. It will be a benefit for us. And those who complain now, well, where have they been? They have never come to water [these trees], to prune them, to care for them.”

 

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