Trees make way for space shuttle
LOS ANGELES -- More than 100 trees have been uprooted in Inglewood and hundreds more are coming down in neighboring communities to make room for the space shuttle Endeavour's upcoming journey from Los Angeles International Airport to the California Science Center.
Though many residents were irked about losing such long-standing shade trees, city officials are relieved to have destructive roots removed from streets and sidewalks.
Endeavour, which reaches five stories in height and has a wingspan of 78 feet, will roll across the city in October on a two-day trek to its final destination at the Exposition Park museum.
In Inglewood, 128 trees have been removed along Manchester Boulevard and Crenshaw Drive over the past two weeks. Another 131 trees will be uprooted near Los Angeles International Airport. In total, more than 400 trees will be removed to accommodate the retired shuttle's trip.
Many of the Inglewood trees were ficus. Their large roots have created headaches for city officials, breaking through sidewalks and disrupting sewer lines.
“Ficus are very aggressive on city infrastructure,” said Mawusi Watson, executive assistant to the city manager. “We're happy to have those removed.”
Inglewood Mayor James T. Butts Jr. was not available for comment Tuesday, a city staff member said.
The California Science Center is picking up the tab for removal of the trees and replanting new ones. For every tree removed, officials from the science center have agreed to plant two higher quality trees in its place. Replanting will begin by the end of October and continue through early 2013. The California Science Center Foundation also will provide two years of tree maintenance.
The last nine trees in Inglewood were removed on Tuesday, Watson said.
“A majority of the trees will be going up in the same place,” she said.
Ficus trees will be replaced with a variety of other trees, including evergreens, water gums and queen palms.
Still, residents have voiced concerns about the tree removal project, with many taking to social networking sites to lament the loss of trees in their city.
“That sucks. Grew up seeing those trees,” wrote Twitter user @iveyjanette_207. “That was part of Inglewood's identity. Now it's gone.”
Endeavour's trek through Los Angeles and Inglewood will be the final stage of a cross-country trip. The retired orbiter — the fifth and final NASA shuttle to be built — will start its journey by flying from Kennedy Space Center in Florida to LAX on top of a modified Boeing 747. It is scheduled to land at LAX on Sept. 20.
From there, Endeavour will travel aboard a specially modified transporter on the trip through Westchester, Inglewood and South Los Angeles to the California Science Center. The shuttle will travel east on Manchester Boulevard to Crenshaw Drive, then north to Crenshaw Boulevard until it reaches Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
Endeavour, which weighs 170,000 pounds, was built in Palmdale and flew 25 missions from 1992 to 2011. It carried the first African-American woman, Mae Jemison, into space on a mission in September 1992.
Along with hundreds of trees, work crews also will remove 212 traffic signals and lights across portions of Westchester near LAX, Inglewood and Leimert Park to create room for the shuttle as it makes the 12-mile journey to the center in Exposition Park.
In a statement, California Science Center President and CEO Jeffrey N. Rudolph said trees, streetlights and power lines need to be moved to create room for the shuttle.
“It will be one of the largest things ever to move over a city street in Los Angeles history,” Rudolph said. “In evaluating the route, priority was always given to preserving trees.”
The shuttle's journey will require 131 trees to be uprooted in Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl's 11th District, which takes in Westchester and Los Angeles International Airport.
A majority of the trees flagged for removal stand on city property along Northside Parkway, near the airport's perimeter, Los Angeles World Airports spokeswoman Nancy Castles said.
Because of conflicting information Tuesday night from airport and District 11 officials, it was unclear whether the Science Center will replace those airport-adjacent trees in the same spots, or plant new trees elsewhere, or both.
The shuttle's journey through LAX should begin between 2 and 3 a.m. Friday, Oct. 12, and wrap up by 5 a.m. to avoid the morning rush. A ceremony will be held at Inglewood City Hall on the morning of Oct. 13.
Endeavour's trip through Los Angeles is expected to attract thousands of space and aviation enthusiasts.