City employees at work on the City Centre rehabilitation project on Jan. 30, 2020
The main entrance to St. Peters City Centre from Mexico Road is receiving a facelift. Some of the benefits will include beautification, improved lighting and ease of maintenance.
Twenty-four ornamental pear trees, 13 on the east side of St. Peters Centre Boulevard and 11 on the west side, were removed Jan. 27, 2020, and will be replaced by Ivory Silk tree lilacs.
New sidewalks alongside the trees will be constructed, as will a concrete center island in the middle of the boulevard that will support three large planters filled with seasonal flowers. A new entrance sign will be placed north of the planters.
The viny, fast-growing, invasive Wintercreeper, which has provided ground cover under the inside row of trees on each side of the boulevard, will be replaced by flowers. The Wintercreeper required frequent pruning, watering and weeding to maintain a pleasing appearance.
“It’s going to be nice. It’s going to clean up the front entrance,” said Acting Manager of Parks and Golf Services Vicki Phillips, who expects the project to be completed by April 30.
The ornamental pear trees were 30 years old. Even when ornamental pear trees are young, their branches are weak and susceptible to wind and storms. As they age, it becomes increasingly likely that they will suffer damage.
“Their branching structure is conducive to just splitting apart in storms,” Phillips said. “A whole section of tree will come off. Two of them had already cracked in storms, and what was left standing was not stable.
“We’ve been trying to prune them, but they’ve lasted 30 years. That’s a long life for an ornamental pear tree. The corrective pruning has been beneficial, but it’s the time in their life (to be removed). We want to make sure we get them before a storm gets them.”
Ornamental pear trees, considered an invasive species by the Missouri Botanical Garden and the Missouri Department of Conservation, grow quickly and can reach heights of 50 feet. The trees on the boulevard blocked roadway lights that are needed in an area with such high traffic volume.
“We’ll be putting trees back in; they’ll be smaller and younger,” Phillips said. “The pears were in the streetlights. Those were 20 foot-something tall. It’s going to open it up and make it really visible. We’re going to be able to improve the sidewalks, improve the crosswalks and get way better access to the whole property.”
There will be one row of trees, rather than two, on both sides of the boulevard. The sidewalks will be closer to the boulevard than the trees.
Phillips said the Ivory Silk tree lilacs “will have a flower that blooms in the summer.” They will be 7 or 8 feet tall when planted and will grow to about 20 feet.
“They’re a pretty cool tree,” she said. “They’ll never interfere with the (street) lights because they’ll be off to the side. We’ll be able to keep them off the sidewalk and they don’t break in storms. They’ll have a good fragrance and a white flower.”
Phillips said a new crosswalk will be placed at the south end of the redesigned entrance island, providing improved east-west access for pedestrians.
The island in the middle of the boulevard has been a mulch bed. The new concrete surface will be curb-high, with the planters taking center stage.
“Everybody loves the flower planters,” Phillips said, referring to the ones in the courtyard area near the main entrance to City Hall. “Now they’ll see them in that center island, too.
“The whole thing’s going to be neater, cleaner and way easier to take care of.”