Oviedo is getting to the root of the problem with up-ended pavers throughout Oviedo on the Park.
With three key areas being most affected — the fountain area across from the Cultural Center, the oak tree area between the stage lawn and playground, and the west side of City Plaza Way and Center Lake Lane — City Council heard options for fixing the issue during its working session on Aug. 28.
The pavers are lifting due to tree root growth and the lack of root barriers, which were not put in when Oviedo on the Park was being built in 2014. The shifted pavers not only affect the aesthetic of the area, but can cause potential liability issues if parkgoers trip over them.
“They pose a problem with mobility,” Councilwoman Natalie Teuchert said. “Slips, trips, falls are [too common]. The biggest cause of accidents on sites, or even in everyday life, is No. 1, slips, trips and falls.”
The issue does have some urgency for the city as it gets worse, but is not a new one.
“I started noticing it probably two years ago,” Oviedo Mayor Megan Sladek said. “At first it was just little, but once the roots start wiggling, they just go. It’s just been getting worse.”
Tree removal pitched as solution
The city’s Recreation and Parks Department proposed removing the trees causing the issues and replacing large areas of pavers with concrete sidewalk, but still leaving edges of pavers and the brick planters throughout.
Doing so would not only remedy the issue, but give the area a similar look to other key locations around the city, such as Franklin Street, the City Hall campus and the area around Oviedo Boulevard and West Broadway Street.
“The aesthetic feel that we were going for also includes the safety and mobility within the park,” Assistant Director of Recreation and Parks Jack Whittaker said. “Removing those pavers and allowing individuals who may have a wheelchair, strollers, is a big, popular thing in the park. Just giving that easy mobility throughout the park.”
While the project would mean removing a number of large oak and elm trees, the city proposed replacing them with trees that have less-invasive root systems, such as crape myrtles and palms.
“I’m not a big fan of pulling out trees and most likely killing them,” Teuchert said. “The ones we have, it’s unfortunate they were put in without regard [for the root impacts]. But [the ones] we’re pulling out makes sense.
“It’s a catch-22, because trees provide so much benefit. They provide shade, they’re good for the environment,” she said. “And then there’s also the negative effects. They tear up sidewalks, they break roads, they’re a huge maintenance issue.”
Finding the funding
The lack of root barriers for the trees at Oviedo on the Park, which began construction in 2014, has led to the necessary repairs and a $55,000 price tag. Sladek said adding root barriers is not a requirement for developers in the city, and not adding them at the time was a large oversight.
“Why didn’t they?” she asked. “Probably because it was cheap and it just didn’t occur to anybody. It might not have been a widely known thing. But in urban areas, it [was]. But at the time, we weren’t considered urban.”
Director of Recreation and Parks Paul Belden deemed the playground and fountain areas as most necessary for immediate remediation, and hopes to have the work done prior to the city’s annual Oktoberfest celebration at Oviedo on the Park, which runs from Sept. 28-30.
“It is a liability because [the pavers are] lifted,” Belden said. “You can see the pavers are an issue when there’s pedestrians, and our concerns are we may have additional people walking through and stumbling. We have to address those needs.”
Because the pavers would be replaced by concrete, the city could put the pavers into a stockpile for future repairs and needs. Additionally, Belden said that long-term maintenance costs would be reduced since there is less upkeep for concrete than for pavers.
There currently is no budget earmarked for this project, but Sladek said that if the Parks Department can find available funds, it could be done.
“They have, on record, consensus to do it,” Sladek said. “If they find the money in this year’s budget, or find it in next year’s budget and pay the bill after Oct. 1 [it can be done before Oktoberfest].
“If they find the money, there’s no reason we would not approve it,” she said. “They just need to know, pretty sure, that they’re going to be able to get approval to pay the bill.”
Belden said they would look to find available funds to at least complete the areas most in need, with a full remodel throughout Oviedo on the Park potentially coming in multiple phases over two to three years.
In addition to alleviating issues with future lifted pavers, the full remodel would bring a more cohesive look throughout the city.
“I appreciate that you have pointed out to us the theme of the [brick] ribbon all throughout the city, because that really does, if you think about what are the subliminal messages we’re sending in different parts of the city, you have kind of nailed it on how do we unify how we want people to act in different parts,” Sladek said. “On the pavement, we want people to move, and not stop.
“The more I look at it, it was really thoughtful,” she said.
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